Dementia the Brain and Hearing Loss

by Carly Copeland
Hearing loss is one of the most common impairments that elderly adults are faced with. Of adults age 70 and older, 83% have a hearing loss (Wingfield, 2012).  One of the more frightening statistics is that only 20% of those with a hearing loss actually seek treatment (Oyler, 2012).  Untreated hearing loss can have devastating effects on the individual. A survey by the National Council on Aging showed that adults with hearing loss who did not wear hearing aids were more likely to have depression, anxiety, and become isolated (Oyler, 2012). Hearing loss is more surprisingly associated to a decline in cognition.
A recent, large-scale study by Frank Lin and colleagues has shown that untreated hearing loss is independently associated with accelerated cognitive impairment in older adults (Lin et al, 2011).  Lin also a found a link between dementia and degree of hearing loss. Individuals with a mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to their normal- hearing peers. With a moderate hearing loss there is three times the risk, and with a severe hearing loss individuals are five times more likely to develop dementia (Oyler, 2012).
It is still unknown whether treatment of hearing aids will be beneficial to those individuals already diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimer’s. However, research indicates that untreated hearing loss can no longer be ignored. Early detection and treatment of hearing loss is not only important for the social and emotional health of the elderly, but also for their cognition.
For more information about hearing loss and rehabilitation, please contact Hearing Partners of South Florida by phone: (561) 638-6530 or email: [email protected].
Oyler, A. (2012, February 14). The American Hearing Loss Epidemic: Few of 46 Million With Hearing Loss Seek Treatment. The ASHA Leader. Lin FR, Metter J, O’Brien RJ, Resnick SM, Zonderman AB, Ferrucci L. (2011) Hearing Loss and Incident Dementia. Arch Neurol68(2):214–220.Wingfield, A. (2012) How Does Hearing Loss Affect the Brain? Aging Health 8 (2) 107-109
 

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