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Hearing loss can increase dementia risk

22 January 2013

Hearing loss can increase dementia risk

A new study has revealed that people who have problems with their hearing could have a greater risk of developing dementia in later life.

The study looked at 2,000 volunteers, all aged between 75 and 84, for a 6 year period.  The results showed that those with hearing loss had a 40% faster rate of mental decline than those who had no hearing problems. This faster rate amounted to individuals experiencing mental impairment 3.2 years sooner than the other participants.

Lead scientist Dr Frank Lin, from Johns Hopkins University in the U.S., said, “Our results show that hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of ageing, because it may come with some serious long-term consequences to healthy brain functioning.”

There are other possible reasons why hearing loss can be linked to an increased risk of
developing dementia.  Previous research has shown that social isolation can impact memory and many hearing impaired individuals may experience this type of isolation.  Trouble hearing may also force the brain to divert energy to processing sound, possibly at the expense of memory.  Dr Lin has speculated that an underlying form of neurological damage may cause both.

The research team now plan on conducting a larger study to look at whether hearing aids can delay mental decline.