Memory loss, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease. These are terms that no one wants to hear. Diagnoses that so many worry they or a loved one will someday receive from their physician. Unfortunately, these terms and diagnoses seem to be more common than ever. According to the World Health Organization and the CDC:
- More than 16 million people in the United States are living with cognitive impairment.
- Dementia is not a normal part of aging.
- Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60–70% of cases.
With shocking numbers like these and the severe impact cognitive decline and dementia can have physically, emotionally and psychologically on both patients and caregivers, researchers are racing to find ways to prevent and slow the progression of cognitive decline. According to new findings, one of those strategies could be as simple as treating hearing loss with hearing aids.
Hearing loss, hearing aids and cognitive decline
While there have been several studies on hearing loss and chronic disease, including untreated hearing loss and dementia, specific treatment strategies and their impact has needed further research. The SENSE-Cog Project, a European research project led by the University of Manchester, is working to investigate the impact of combined sensory and cognitive problems and improve quality of life, health and social care budgets and resource allocation across Europe. In one recent study published by the group in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, hearing aids as a treatment for hearing loss and the connection with cognitive decline were investigated. In the promising report, the team found that the “rate of cognitive decline on a memory test was slower following the adoption of hearing aids.”
What could this mean for the risk of cognitive decline and even dementia? The researchers believe that with early diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids, the rates of cognitive decline could be reduced. This reduction would mean not only a better quality of life for many but also reduced costs both financially and psychologically.
The hearing loss cognition connection
While the exact relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline is still unknown for sure, there are many theories including:
- Common Cause Theory: Hearing loss and cognitive decline are merely symptoms of a deeper root cause.
- Cognitive Load Theory: Hearing loss causes increased demands on the brain. The brain in turn shifts resources away from other crucial areas diminishing cognitive function.
- Cascade Theory: Hearing loss triggers physical, mental and emotional changes leading to cognitive decline.
Whatever the exact connection, research continues to show a link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline.
If you believe you have hearing loss, start treating it today by scheduling a hearing evaluation. Once you have been diagnosed, work with your hearing healthcare professional to identify the best hearing aids for your needs and lifestyle. There are a wide variety of styles and features that make them more powerful and easier to use than ever before.
Take these steps today to reduce your risk of dementia down the road. If you have any questions about hearing aids, smart hearing aids or about your personal experience with hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Hearing Partners of South Florida. We are happy to help!