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Chances of Dementia Increase with Loss of Hearing

John Hopkins recently conducted a study that looked at 2,413 older adults to explore the connection from hearing loss contributing to a higher likelihood of dementia. The study had some insightful findings that included:

  • Dementia present in the participants with moderate to severe hearing loss was 61% higher than those with normal hearing.
  • Participants utilizing hearing aids has a 32% lower presence of dementia in those with moderate to severe hearing loss.

Potential Theories Explaining the Connection

While the exact mechanisms behind this association are still being explored, several theories are attempting to explain the connection.

Hearing loss places an additional cognitive load on the brain, as it requires greater effort to process and understand spoken language. This increased cognitive load can potentially detract from other cognitive functions, leading to a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Hearing loss in the elderly can also lead to greater risks of social isolation which seem to be a prevalent risk factor for dementia.

Another theory presents the idea that as the part of the brain responsible for processing sound becomes less active (due to decreased hearing), the brain begins to undergo changes that can affect cognition. Those changes could be eventually linked to the development of dementia.

Finally, hearing loss can be seen as a form of sensory deprivation, depriving the brain of important auditory input. The reduced input can negatively impact cognitive reserve, which refers to the brain’s ability to adapt efficiently in the face of age-related changes. A compromised cognitive reserve may make the brain more vulnerable to the development of dementia in your aging loved one.

All of these studies and theories are still being researched but it appears that maintaining good hearing in your aging loved one could be crucial to decreasing dementia chances. As their caregiver, try to monitor and measure their hearing regularly to see when a hearing aid is required or should be upgraded.

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