Johns Hopkins study on hearing loss and dementia

Happy Monday everyone! As I am writing this, we continue to see the renovations well underway with Front Street and the sidewalks along side of it. I want to remind all of you that if you have any issues at all finding parking downtown to please park in our back lot directly behind out facility. You will see a large almost neon green sign reading “PVH” on the back door, please feel free to walk on in!

Johns Hopkins study on hearing loss and dementia

Studies from Johns Hopkins University have found links between hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia.  A 2011 study of some 600 older adults found that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia than adults with normal hearing. In fact, the more severe the hearing loss, the more likely they were to develop dementia; volunteers with mild loss were 2 times more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing.  Those with moderate loss and severe loss were three times and five times, respectively, more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing.

There are three main theories for how hearing loss may contribute to cognitive decline and dementia, Lin said. The first is “cognitive load.” If the brain is constantly coping with degraded sounds, its resources are dedicated to processing those sounds, to the detriment of other processes like memory and thinking.

The second theory involves brain atrophy. Hearing impairment may directly contribute to accelerated rates of atrophy in parts of the brain that process sound. Those parts of the brain don’t work in isolation, according to Lin; they “also play roles in memory and sensory integration and have been shown to be involved in the early stages of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.”

The third explanation is social isolation. People who have a hard time hearing often withdraw because it’s so difficult to communicate with others. Numerous studies have found that a loss of engagement and loneliness are risk factors for cognitive decline.

These studies give some urgency to treating hearing loss rather than ignoring it. “If you want to address hearing loss well,” Lin says, “you want to do it sooner rather than later. If hearing loss is potentially contributing to these differences we’re seeing on MRI, you want to treat it before these brain structural changes take place.”

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Portage Valley Hearing