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Untreated Hearing Loss Linked to Increased Risk for Dementia

AARP published an article in February 2011 stating that hearing loss is linked to dementia. The study was conducted by Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging. The study followed over six hundred people for two decades. 

The subjects were given a battery of tests every two years. Their hearing was tested and they were given tests to measure their memory, logical and language skills. The subjects ranged in age from 36 to 90 years old. None of the subjects had dementia at the beginning of the study, but some had hearing loss from the start of the study. 

The study discovered that when people began to have difficulty hearing and understanding in a noisy place such as a restaurant, their risk of developing dementia rose significantly. Eventually, it was revealed that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia. 

The researchers reported that many physicians focus on heart disease and high blood pressure more than hearing loss. Not focusing on hearing loss can have consequences for the patient. Our audiologists always encourage family physicians to refer their patients for a hearing test by age 50, as a baseline hearing test begins the process of monitoring hearing loss for the rest of a patient’s life.

Can I Reduce My Risk of Dementia?

This study does not mean that anyone who has trouble hearing and understanding in a noisy place will develop dementia; merely that hearing loss increases the risk factors. However, there are plenty of things that can be done to head hearing loss—and dementia—off before they start. 

The first thing is to change the way people think about hearing loss. Many people “assume” hearing loss is just a normal part of aging, but the truth is that hearing loss can begin at any age. In fact, over 7% of teenagers today have some hearing loss from the use of headphones and personal audio devices. There is no age limit on beginning to wear hearing aidsand according to the study, it seems the sooner the better. 

Being able to hear and follow a conversation in noisy situation can be a blessing, but it can also keep you employed and socially engaged for longer, lengthening your life span. Sensorineural (permanent) hearing loss can be effectively and painlessly treated with hearing aids and these devices are getting smaller and smaller. They come in all styles and price ranges, so there’s no reason not to hear the sounds you love most. 

Don’t “assume” that you have the facts! Make an appointment with an audiologist for a complete hearing test and find out the status of your hearing. Our board-certified audiologists help patients of all ages to hear better for the rest of their lives. Call the number on this page to learn more!

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