Did you know…that hearing loss is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia?
The evidence linking hearing loss to an increased risk of developing dementia keeps piling up. One Johns Hopkins study found that people with severe hearing loss are five times more at risk for developing dementia than people without hearing loss. Another one found that untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia by 50 percent.
So, why is hearing loss linked to dementia? Scientists blame several contributing factors:
- Hearing loss shifts the cognitive load of the brain — The brain spends too much energy trying to process what it’s hearing, giving it less time to spend on thinking and memory.
- Hearing loss accelerates brain atrophy — While all brains shrink as we age, in studies, people with impaired hearing had “accelerated rates of brain atrophy.”
- Hearing loss leads to social isolation and loneliness — Social isolation has been associated with a 50 percent increased risk of dementia.
More recently, researchers have been looking into whether treating hearing loss with hearing aids can prevent cognitive decline.
One 2022 analysis of studies and trials found that “compared to people who didn’t use [hearing aids], people who did had a 19 percent lower risk of cognitive decline.”
And a study published in the Lancet concluded that treating hearing loss was the number one risk factor people could modify to “reduce the incidence of dementia or substantially delay its onset.”
We know more studies are currently underway, and will update information accordingly when results are published.
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