Researchers at John Hopkins School of Medicine looked at 639 adults from 36-90 years of age for 12 years and monitored cognitive health and hearing health. While none of the subjects had dementia at the start of the study, 184 of the 639 subjects had some degree of hearing loss. Researcher, Otologist and Epidemiologist Dr. Frank Lin discovered a link between those who had hearing loss at the beginning of the study and those who developed dementia at the end of the study. Lin and his associates also found the greater the hearing loss, the better the chance of developing dementia; with every 10 decibels of hearing loss, the likelihood of dementia increased by 20%.
Why is There a Link?
According to Lin, there are three theories to explain the connection:
- Cognitive Overload: The brain works harder to cope when sounds are degraded.
- Brain Atrophy: Hearing loss may contribute to accelerated rates of atrophy in parts of the brain that process sound, which may also involve vascular aspects.
- Social Isolation: Those who have difficulty hearing may withdraw from social situations. Numerous studies have found that a loss of engagement and loneliness are risk factors for cognitive decline.
Will Treating Hearing Loss Reduce the Risk of Dementia?
Frank Lin and his team are currently looking for answers and conducting a 5-year study with 800 older adults. Since we already know hearing impairment is independently associated with a 30-40% rate of accelerated cognitive decline, Lin will look at whether treating hearing loss will reduce this risk factor of dementia. In this study, some of the subjects have received state-of-the-art hearing technology and others only received “wellness advice.” Cognitive decline of the subjects will be measured at the end of the study.
What Can We Do Now?
As we await the results of Lin’s 5-year study to solidify the link between treated vs. untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline, it is recommended that you begin to take preventative measures to protect your cognition. SENT Hearing Aid Center’s dispensing audiologists utilize more than 20 years of experience to provide comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, counseling, and recommendations for remediation of all hearing imperfections.
Our audiologists offer the latest in hearing aid technology from top manufacturers and incorporate a personalized fitting strategy that provides you with the most advanced and optimal hearing aid programming techniques. We offer service and care for the life of the instrument.
Call to schedule a free consultation to see why so many Northern California residents have come to rely on SENT Hearing Aid Center for their hearing health care needs.
Herbert, L., Weuve, J. Scherr, P., Evans, D. (2013). Alzheimer disease in the United States (2010-2050) estimated using the 2010 census. Neurology 80, 1778-1783.
Jorgensen, L. (2014). Evaluation of hearing status at the time of dementia diagnosis. Audiology Today, 39-44.
Lin, FR, Albert, M. (2014). Hearing loss and dementia, who’s listening? Aging Mental Health, 18, 671-673.
Lin FR, Metter EJ, O’Brien RJ, Resnick SM, Zonderman AB, Ferrucci L. (2011). Hearing loss and incident dementia. Arch Neurology. 68,(2), 214–220. doi: 68/2/214 [pii] 10.1001/archneurol.2010.362
Lin FR, Yaffe K, Xia J, Xue QL, Harris TB, Purchase-Helzner EL, Simonsick E. (2013). Hearing loss and cognitive decline among older adults. JAMA Internal Medicine
Rokins, T. (2013). The links between hearing loss and dementia. The Huffington Post.