Hearing loss is very common as we grow older The loss affects how we interact with family, friends, and everyday social interactions. A top researcher at Johns Hopkins Medical Center sees hearing loss linked to dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.
“The general perception is that hearing loss is a relatively inconsequential part of aging,” says Frank Lin, M.D., an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Lin says recent findings suggest that it may play a much more important role in brain health than previously believed.
Dr. Lin does see the potential upside. If the connection — shown in several recent and well-regarded studies — holds up, it raises the possibility that treating hearing loss more aggressively could help slow down or prevent cognitive decline and dementia. Lin and other researchers have several theories about the possible cause of the link between hearing and dementia, although they aren’t yet sure which of them — if any — will hold true.
Lin has authored several studies indicating a link between hearing and cognitive problems ranging from mild impairment all the way to dementia. In a 2013 study, he and his colleagues tracked concentration, memory and planning skills of nearly 2,000 adults whose average age was 77. After six years, those who began the study with hearing loss severe enough to interfere with conversation were 24 percent more likely than those with normal hearing to have seen their cognitive abilities diminish. In the findings the researchers found hearing loss seemed to speed up age-related cognitive decline.
It is common for people to withdraw from social settings and feel isolated from others because of their hearing loss. Admitting there is a loss and treating it is the first step to reconnecting with people around us. It will improve daily communication but it can help prevent or delay cognitive decline.
If you suspect you have hearing difficulties, please get it tested. Call us today.