Most of us accept that hearing loss is a natural part of getting older. Similarly, it's well known that cognitive function has a tendency to decrease with advanced age. While these changes may be unavoidable, new research suggests that they could be closely tied to one another. In fact, according to a recent study by the Lin Research Group, the link may so strong that people who suffer from untreated hearing loss run a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's.
Why the Connection Exists
On the surface, it doesn't seem like there would be a strong correlation between hearing loss and dementia. While scientists are certain that such a connection exists, there is some disagreement over why it exists. One theory suggests that people who suffer from hearing loss don't interact as much with the world around them. This loss of interaction results in less mental stimulation, causing the gray matter in the brain to atrophy at a more advanced rate and increasing the likelihood of dementia.
Even though scientists are still unsure how hearing loss contributes to dementia, the most recent study by the Lin Research Group reinforces the findings of similar studies done in the past. For the study, researchers spent six years following a group of almost 2,000 seniors, keeping track of their hearing loss as well as their overall cognitive function.
In that time, the research team found that the study participants were at a significantly increased risk for dementia or Alzheimer's if their hearing loss wasn't sufficiently treated. Additionally, researchers found a strong correlation between the severity of the hearing loss and the severity of the cognitive decline. On the flip side, they also found that participants who took steps to retain their hearing experienced the least amount of mental degeneration.
Importance of Prevention
Given these results, it's imperative for anyone suffering from hearing loss to seek treatment. In general, experts recommend seeing an audiologist for an annual hearing test to keep track of your hearing ability, so that you can take measures as quickly as possible in the event of a decline. Also, if you have assistive hearing devices, be sure to wear them at all times so that you can properly interact with the world around you.
This advice is also good for people who have family members that are advancing in age. Keeping track of your loved ones' hearing ability is a major part of monitoring their health. If you notice that their hearing ability is becoming diminished, make sure you take them to a specialist as soon as possible.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!