8/19/2011 2:37:00 PM 2011: Hearing loss and dementia linked in study
Ron Kuglitsch, BC-HIS, doing a hearing evaluation for a client in their home.
Frequently hearing professionals have witnessed a client’s mental functioning improve after they are wearing hearing aids.
Family, friends and caregivers often marvel at the “miracle” of the client’s increased ability to follow instructions, give appropriate answers to questions and remember a conversation.
It may be what masqueraded as confusion or worse -- the onset of dementia, was actually an untreated hearing loss. The question arises then, what would happen if the hearing loss continues to go untreated? Could this lead to a permanent case of dementia?
Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institute on Aging suggest exactly that in a study released 2011.
“Seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. Although the reason for the link between the two conditions is unknown, the researchers 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, the researchers report, their findings may offer a starting point for interventions—even as simple as hearing aids—that could delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing.
According to Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Otology at Johns Hopkins, “Researchers have looked at what affects hearing loss, but few have looked at how hearing loss affects cognitive brain function.”
For more information on this study, visit www.hopkinsmedicine.org/otolaryngology/
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