Health

Second Opinion: What is the link between hearing loss and dementia?

Seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing, a study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging researchers suggests.

Although the reason for the link between the two conditions is unknown, the investigators suggest that a common pathology may underlie both or that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia. They also speculate that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders.

Whatever the cause, scientists report that their findings may offer a starting point for interventions—even as simple as hearing aids—that could delay or prevent dementia by improving seniors’ hearing.

“A lot of people ignore hearing loss because it’s such a slow and insidious process as we age,” study leader, Dr. Frank Lin says. “Even if people feel as if they are not affected, we’re showing that it may well be a more serious problem.”

For more information, go to: hopkinsmedicine.org/otolaryngology/our_team/faculty/lin_frank.html

Jodi Ritchie, M.Ed., CCC-A

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