Hearing Loss and Dementia: New Study Highlights How Hearing Aids Can Help

Hearing loss is a widespread problem, especially among people over age 70. In fact, some estimates say that as many as two-thirds of American adults over 70 are impacted by hearing loss. With dementia and cognitive decline also being a prolific concern among older adults, it’s logical to wonder if the two are related.

It’s long been thought that hearing loss and cognitive decline are linked, but a recent study at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found strong evidence that hearing loss is a contributing factor in dementia risk. Here’s what to know about hearing loss, dementia, and how hearing aids could help reduce your risk.

The Study

Funded by the National Institute on Aging, the study was conducted on 2,413 people, and of these people, about half of them were over 80 years old. In the group who had moderate to severe hearing loss, dementia prevalence was about 60% higher than in those who had normal hearing. However, in those with moderate to severe hearing loss who used hearing aids, dementia prevalence was about 32% lower.

Although the study used in-clinic data collection methods and did not take into account people who don’t have access to clinical care, it’s a promising insight into how hearing aids could be used to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Hearing Loss and Dementia

Much more study is needed to fully understand the link between hearing loss and dementia, but there are many factors that are thought to contribute. One of the most notable is social isolation and being unable to properly participate in everyday social activities. For hearing loss sufferers, it can be difficult to keep up with conversations or socialize in noisy environments. In fact, hearing loss can sometimes mimic cognitive decline because of the difficulty in recognizing speech patterns or remembering conversations. It’s unknown exactly what happens in the brain with dementia, but hearing loss seems to make certain areas of the brain less active and thus less capable of focusing, for example. This seems to predispose some people to actual cognitive decline later on.

Can Hearing Aids Prevent Dementia?

This can be difficult to answer since we still know too little about dementia and cognitive decline. However, this study is promising for older patients with hearing loss or even for those who already use hearing aids. What we do know is that hearing aids are the best way to treat hearing loss and that hearing loss can drastically reduce the quality of life, especially for older patients. If you’re concerned about hearing loss and cognitive decline, your first step is meeting with a Doctor of Audiology to assess your hearing and discuss your treatment options.

Schedule an Appointment

At NYHD, we use some of the leading therapies and technologies to treat hearing loss and help you regain your vibrant lifestyle. To schedule a consultation and get started, contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.