Recent studies have shown a link between hearing loss and cognitive impairment in older adults, according to the AARP. In one study, participants were tracked for 12 to 18 years. Those with moderate hearing loss were shown to have a three times greater risk of dementia than those with normal hearing.

There are several possible reasons for this link, says researcher Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. Common physiological factors, cognitive overload and brain structure changes due to hearing loss are three possible mechanisms. The social isolation created by hearing loss is also believed to be a factor. Lin points out that these theories have yet to be tested and that only increased risk—rather than certainty of dementia—has been identified.

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At the same time, treating hearing loss has been linked to improved cognitive function. A French study of profoundly deaf individuals between the ages of 65-85 showed that cochlear implants significantly improved the cognitive performance of the lowest scoring participants.

More studies are being conducted to examine the link between hearing loss and dementia, as well as the cognitive benefits of treatment. In the meantime, it is recommended that individuals who have difficulty hearing consult a specialist.

Signs that you may have significant hearing loss include:

  • Trouble hearing in noisy public places
  • Needing to turn up the television and radio volume
  • Having difficulty following conversations among multiple people
  • Often asking others to repeat themselves

Surprisingly, less than 15-20 percent of people with clinically significant hearing loss use hearing aids. It is also estimated that two-thirds of Americans over age 70 have hearing loss. For these individuals, it is best to learn if treatments can improve hearing and possibly reduce the associated risk of dementia.

To learn more about diagnostic and treatment services, contact Jefferson Surgical Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia. Our licensed audiologist and ear, nose and throat specialists will work together to improve your health and hearing.

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