The Connection Between Hearing Loss And Dementia

A study in 2011 had demonstrated that those who have hearing loss are at an increased risk of dementia. It was the Baltimore John Hopkins School of Medicine, working together with other United States researchers, who uncovered this relationship. There were 639 participants to this study, aged between 36 and 90. Between 1990 and 1994, the first part of the study took place. Participants were tested to determine their aural and cognitive health. All participants were then monitored until May 2008. In these years, scientists monitored the development of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. At the beginning, none of the participants had dementia. Mild hearing loss was present in 125 participants. And 53 of the participants were known to have moderate hearing loss. Six had severe hearing loss. The remaining 455 participants had perfect hearing.

The first progress report was released after 12 years. At this progress report, it was revealed that 37 had developed Alzheimer’s while 58 had dementia. It was then uncovered that those who had hearing loss when the study began were more likely to also have developed dementia. It was determined that the risk of dementia was greatest in those with the most severe hearing loss. The link seemed to be that 10 decibels of lost hearing equated to a 20% increase in chance of developing dementia. There some other factors that were also found to be important. Age was the other significant factor. For those participants who were over 60 years old, the chance of developing dementia jumped to 36% rather than 20%.

Nevertheless, a single study does not provide conclusive proof. Another independent study took place, which totally backed up the results. In this study, 1,984 adults took part, making it one of the largest of its kind. This piece of research was started in 1997 and has recently been completed. It came up with the same conclusions as the first one. The second study additionally uncovered that those with hearing loss had a 40% faster rate of decay of their cognitive functions. One of the most worrying aspects it uncovered was that those with hearing aids did not notice an improvement in their rate of decay. Hence, it could be concluded that the onset of dementia cannot be stopped, slowed down or halted in those with hearing loss. This is a worrying and sad conclusion, although scientists are now obviously looking into what can be done. Unfortunately, both dementia and Alzheimer’s are still poorly understood, which also needs to change. One other thing that needs to be explored is why there is a link between hearing loss and the onset of dementia, which is not yet understood right now.

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