Research at Johns Hopkins University and others have confirmed what many audiologists and physicians have long known: there is an irrefutable link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Initial problems such as memory loss and an inability to concentrate can worsen over time. Left untreated, this may eventually lead to dementia and other forms of severe cognitive impairment.
In a study, published in 2013, close to 2,000 older adults (average age: 77) were tracked for a period of six years. Those who began the study with the worst hearing loss – impairment bad enough to interfere with daily conversational ability – were 24% more likely to see a decline in cognitive ability compared to individuals with normal hearing as well as a 30-40% accelerated rate of cognitive decline.
A similar study published in 2011 concluded that persons with moderate hearing loss were three times as likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. These figures are striking and hard to refute.
Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: hearing aids can help. Studies show that patients who treat their hearing loss with hearing devices reduce their odds of cognitive decline and, at the very least, delay the onset of dementia.
Early detection is key! If you are experiencing hearing loss, it’s best to seek treatment as soon as possible in order to avoid mental deterioration. Even if you are unaware of a problem, schedule a hearing evaluation in order to make sure. Because symptoms develop slowly, many patients adjust to gradual changes in hearing without realizing there is anything wrong.