Earlier this year, USA today published an article linking dementia to hearing loss. A study revealed that millions of hearing-impaired older adults are more likely to suffer early memory and thinking problems than adults without hearing loss.
According to research online featured in JAMA Internal Medicine, cognitive problems were developed an astounding 30% to 40% faster when hearing declined to a mere 25 decibels – which is a mild hearing loss. Frank Lin, lead author, stated that common symptoms of this type of hearing loss is noticing more difficulty with speech clarity in restaurants or whenever there is a constant stream of background noise.
Estimates on the number of people who have some degree of hearing loss in the United States varies, but this population ranges from one-third to two-thirds of adults who are 70 years old and older. The authors of this study indicated that of this enormous population, only 15% reportedly take action and seek help (hearing aids). About sevem million people in the United States suffer from some form of dementia and this number is expected to double every 20 years.
Dr. Lin, an Otologist and assistant profession at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, stated that due to this uprising trend of dementia, these findings show how important it is for physicians to discuss hearing with their patients and encourage them to be proactive in addressing their hearing health.
Dr. Lin reported that it is important to note that this study was funded by the National Institute of Health and there was absolutely NO funding from hearing device manufacturers.
"It could also be that if you're constantly having to expend more (mental) energy decoding what you hear, then it comes at a cost,'' Lin says. "Hearing loss doesn't directly contribute to dementia, but leads to cognitive load on the brain."
Arthur Wingfield who is the chairman of neuroscience at Bradeis University in Waltham, MA has conducted research revealing that even a mild to moderate hearing loss can undermine the cognitive resources of an “otherwise healthy young adult.”
There is a clear link between mild hearing loss and cognitive skills. This should be a red flag and a call for alertness to the public as a health issue but unfortunately it has received less attention that it should.