Hearing Loss And Dementia By The Numbers
- People with a mild hearing loss are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia as those with normal hearing
- People with a moderate hearing loss are three times as likely to develop dementia
- People with a severe loss are five times as likely to develop dementia
- For every 10-decibel increase in hearing loss, the extra risk for dementia jumps by 20 percent. For people over the age of 60, 36 percent of their dementia risk is associated with hearing loss.
Many people who have mild hearing loss do not even realize it. Start with the online hearing testits a fast, easy way to learn about your hearing.
Frontiers In Aging Neuroscience
University of Southern California, United States
Columbia University, United States
The editor and reviewers’ affiliations are the latest provided on their Loop research profiles and may not reflect their situation at the time of review.
Evaluating Hearing Loss As A Risk Factor For Dementia
All of the studies indicated that hearing loss is independently associated with higher incidence of dementia. The majority of the studies quantified the relationship using standard deviations, hazard ratio, relative risk, or odds ratio., , , , , , , , , , , , Four studies found a doseresponse relationship between the severity of hearing loss and an increased risk of cognitive decline., , , One study found that for every 10 dB HL at baseline, there was a 1.27 increased risk for allcause dementia and 1.20 increased risk for developing AD. Another study found the dose response curve to be a 1.5 point score decrease in the DSST cognitive test for every 10 dB HL. A third study found that for every 1 point increase in the hearing impairment scale, the likelihood of developing dementia five years later increased by 22%. Another study found the dose response to be an increased hazard ratio of 1.14 for every 10 dB HL. Two of the studies also employed other measurement systems; for example, a 25 dB hearing loss is the equivalent cognitive performance of an individual 6.8 years older , or moderate to severe hearing loss resulted in worse scores on the MMSE . One study quantifying the relationship with a hazard ratio also found a 0.26 points per year faster decline on 3MSR when HL was present .
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Hearing Loss Dementia And The Brain
Years of scientific evidence point to a connection between hearing loss, cognitive decline, and brain function. In a 2011 study, hearing experts at Johns Hopkins followed 639 people for approximately 12 years. The researchers found that people with severe hearing loss are 5 times more likely to develop dementia than those with healthy hearing. In people with moderate hearing loss, the risk for dementia was tripled. Among those with mild impairment, dementia was twice as likely to develop.
Additional findings from the Johns Hopkins team show that cognitive decline occurs more quickly in those with hearing loss. In their 2013 paper in JAMA Internal Medicine, adults with hearing loss experienced cognitive decline 30-40% faster than those with healthy hearing.
Neuroimaging studies show that hearing impairment shrinks the brain. A 2014 study in Neuroimage revealed decreased overall brain volume in older adults who were hard of hearing. Reductions in volume were also found in specific brain regions, including the right temporal lobe. The temporal lobes are involved in hearing and understanding language, as well as memory, moods, and learning. More brain imaging research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms at work in hearing loss and its associated mental health symptoms and cognitive decline.
Help With Hearing Aids
There is a lot to learn about using hearing aids and this can be particularly difficult if a person has dementia. Care and support staff can play a vital role in ensuring that a person with dementia benefits reliably from their hearing aid.
Here are some basic tips from Action on Hearing Loss:
- Make sure hearing aids are checked every day to make sure they are working and that the person is wearing them correctly.
- Learn how to use the t-switch and controls on hearing aids, how to change batteries and how to clean hearing aids
- Make sure arrangements are in place for hearing aid re-tubing, repairs and battery replacement. Local audiology departments should be able to help with this.
- Try to minimise the number of lost hearing aids, and ensure that lost hearing aids are replaced as quickly as possible.
- Get to know who to consult to examine ears for wax and to arrange ear syringing, where appropriate.
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The Auditory Brain: Structural And Functional Substrates For Neurodegeneration
The auditory system has evolved to allow adaptive behavioural responses to complex, dynamic acoustic environments . However, its structural and functional characteristics confer specific vulnerabilities to neurodegenerative pathologies.
Anatomically, the hierarchy of auditory processing relays and in particular the large-scale cerebral networks that process sound information are highly distributed. The spread of pathogenic proteins in neurodegenerative dementias targets these networks rather than the peripheral organs of hearing. Though histopathological data remain limited, neurodegenerative pathologies may preferentially involve auditory association cortex and cortico-cortical projections rather than primary sensory cortex , thereby striking the integrative mechanisms that are most critical for auditory object analysis.
Two additional, related guiding principles of auditory system operation that are critical for adaptive functioning in complex, dynamic auditory environments are functional plasticity and reciprocity. Reciprocity is mediated by recursive, afferent-efferent feedback that supports auditory change detection and top-down tracking of behaviourally relevant sound sources , as well as predictive decoding and filling-in of ambiguous and varying auditory inputs, such as degraded speech . Plasticity enables dynamic neural adaptation to auditory experience.
The Links Between Hearing And Health
Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain, Lin says. Hearing loss also contributes to;social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia.
As you walk, your ears pick up subtle cues that help with balance. Hearing loss mutes these important signals, Lin notes. It also makes your brain work harder just to process sound. This subconscious multitasking may interfere with some of the mental processing needed to walk safely.;
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What Research On Dementia And Hearing Loss Reveals
Most recently, a;study published in July 2021 found that people who struggle to hear speech in noise were more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing, as measured over an 11-year period. This was the first time that speech in noise was specifically studied. However, the study wasn’t capable of determining if untreated hearing loss caused the dementia, only that they’re linked.;
In a different study, a team at Johns Hopkins looked at cognitive impairment scores over six years for;nearly 2,000 seniors. They concluded that those with hearing loss had a faster decline. The volunteers were all cognitively normal when the research began. But by the studys end, people with hearing loss were 24 percent more likely to meet the standard of cognitive impairment compared to people with normal hearing.;
Another approach is to ask people whether theyve noticed a change. Measures of subjective decline can pick up losses before theyll show up on a test. A large studyusing data drawn from more than 10,000 men age 62 and upran over eight years. It found that the greater their hearing loss, the more likely men were to express concerns about their memory or thinking over time. With even a mild hearing loss, their chance of reporting cognitive decline was 30 percent higher than among those who did not report any hearing loss. With moderate or severe hearing loss, the risk was 42 and 52 percent higher.
How Hearing Loss May Change The Brain
Hearing loss does seem to shrink some;parts of the brain;responsible for auditory response.;In a study led by Jonathan Peelle, now at Washington University in St. Louis, older adults underwent brain scans while they listened to sentences of varying complexity. They also took tests that measured gray matter, the regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.
It turned out that the neurons in people with hearing loss were less active when they focused on complex sentences. They also had less gray matter in the auditory areas. These effects may accumulate with time or be triggered by age: In other research, Peelle found that older adults with hearing loss do worse on speech comprehension tasks than younger adults with hearing loss. ;
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What This Means For People With Alzheimers
First off, its important to note that having hearing loss doesnt mean your loved one is going to develop Alzheimers. Many people begin to have trouble hearing in their senior years and manage to live out those years without experiencing dementia. But the link does suggest to us that if we can do something to minimize hearing loss, theres a decent chance that we can also minimize the likelihood of getting Alzheimers or the severity of it if someone does get it.
In fact, theres an additional study that bears this theory out. Researchers at a hospital in Paris provided a number of people with deafness in at least one ear with a cochlear implant and tracked their cognitive performance before and after receiving the implant along with auditory rehabilitation. 80% of the people studied showed cognitive improvement within a year. For comparison, those are better results by nearly double than any FDA-approved drugs for treating dementia.
Any senior experiencing hearing loss should make a point to seek out treatments for it. Not only will it make it much easier to communicate with friends and loved ones and continue to participate in the many everyday activities that require hearing, but it could help them avoid or stave off Alzheimers for longer.
Availability Of Data And Materials
The data that support our findings this study are available from the NHIRD, but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study; thus, they are not publicly available. Data are, however, available from the authors upon reasonable request and with the permission of the NHIRD.
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Coping With Dementia And Hearing Loss
Living with both conditions is more difficult than living with either on its own. Both dementia and hearing loss can have an impact on how someone copes day to day for example, making it harder to communicate. They can also both lead to increased social isolation, loss of independence, and problems with everyday activities, and as a result make the persons dementia seem worse.
However, there are things that can help.
- Having regular hearing checks and making the most of the hearing the person does have for example, by using hearing aids.
- Improving the environment, for example by reducing background noise and distractions and making sure the area is well lit.
- Finding out the persons preferred way of communicating for example, lip reading.
- Using gestures and expressions, and letting people see your face when communicating.
- Using visual clues and prompts.
If the person needs hearing aids, these are available free on the NHS, or you can buy one privately. Many older people struggle to use a hearing aid correctly all the time. It can take time for a person to get used to a hearing aid, and it will take a person with dementia longer. It is also important to consider whether a hearing aid is the best option an audiologist should be able to advise.
Dementia Connect support line
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Hearing Aid Myths That Hold You Back
Can hearing aids reduce these risks? Lin hopes to find out in a new study, still in the planning stages. These studies have never been done before, he notes. What we do know is that theres no downside to using hearing aids. They help most people who try them. And in those people, they can make all the difference in the worldallowing people to reengage with friends and family and to be more involved again.
Although nearly 27 million Americans age 50 and older have hearing loss, only one in seven uses a hearing aid. If you think your hearing has diminished, its worth making an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing check, Lin says. If you have hearing loss, dont let the following myths keep you from getting help.
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I Heard That Hearing Aids Are Difficult To Use
There is a breaking-in period as youand your central auditory system and brainadjust to life with hearing aids. Thats why most doctors and hearing centers include a trial period, so you can be sure the type youve chosenwhether its a miniature behind-the-ear model or one that fits into your earis right for you.
Hearing Impairment: Cause Canary Or Corollary Of Dementia
The complex pathophysiological relations between hearing impairment and dementia remain to be fully defined. Impoverished sensory fidelity due to peripheral hearing loss or disturbed subcortical auditory trafficking will potentially have effects both on auditory cognition and more general cognitive functions such as attention, executive processing and perceptual learning , leading to vicious cycling. Hearing loss might therefore produce both syndromic and generic cognitive signatures. The balance of these is likely to depend on stimulus and task demands as well as the particular neurodegenerative process. Emerging epidemiological evidence suggests that hearing impairment may potentiate neurodegeneration, perhaps via an interaction of aberrant auditory activity with culprit proteinopathies in vulnerable neural circuits . Indeed, hearing impairment might constitute a facilitating cause of neurodegenerative disease evolution, an early warning canary for impending cognitive disaster or an accompaniment of established dementia: these non-exclusive mechanisms would have mutually reinforcing consequences for auditory brain function.
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Does Hearing Loss Lead To Dementia
Dementia is a medical term that is used to describe a host of symptoms, characterized by a deterioration in a patients cognitive abilities.
Hearing loss and dementia are more common as you get older. Scientists have found that a persons chances of mental decline seem to go up to worsen their hearing problems.
The investigators also suggest that hearing loss requires so much brain effort over the years to decode sounds into useful information, that those with hearing loss become more vulnerable to dementia.
The sole reason behind linking Dementia and Hearing loss is the amount of effect it provides to the brain. Due to similar activities involved in a similar part of the brain can be a link between hearing loss and dementia.
A person may have dementia if at least two of his mental faculties are affected: the loss of memory and focus; difficulty communicating.
If you want to try to lower your chances of hearing loss as you age, try to keep your heart healthy, protect your hearing from loud noises, and dont smoke. Smoking is a big risk factor for sensory loss.
Alzheimers is a kind of dementia that reasons issues with memory, questioning, and behavior. Symptoms commonly enhance slowly and get worse over time, turning into severe adequate to interfere with daily tasks.
Symptoms of Alzheimers Disease
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Hearing Loss And Dementia
There is a strong link between hearing loss and dementia. According to one study, people with mild hearing loss are two times as likely to develop dementia, and this increases to three times for those with moderate hearing loss . The reasons for this relationship are not clear, but communication difficulties may be one reason, as both hearing loss and dementia can make communication more difficult.
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Can Combined Hearing And Visual Impairment Increase The Risk Of Developing Dementia
The link between hearing loss and dementia is already widely known. However, recent research suggests that people with both visual and hearing impairment are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia as those without such impairments.9 Another Korean study also shows similar findings.13;Researchers believe that this may be because a decline in both the senses can worsen social isolation, as well as place strain on the parts of the brain needed for good cognitive function.10
More recently, researchers have also been investigating the link between pre-existing eye conditions and dementia, with one study finding an association between Normal-Tension Glaucoma and poor cognition.14
Can Getting A Hearing Aid Help Prevent Memory Loss
by Katherine Griffin, Katherine Bouton, AARP| 0
Hear Better: Quick tips to care for your hearing aid
En español | It really doesn’t seem fair: Hearing loss, a troublesome fact of life for more than 48 million Americans, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America, may increase the risk of cognitive problems and even dementia. By the time Americans reach their 70s, two-thirds have hearing loss.
“The general perception is that hearing loss is a relatively inconsequential part of aging,” says Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. But recent findings, he says, suggest that it may play a much more important role in brain health than we’ve previously thought.
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Hearing Loss And Social Isolation
The third link between hearing loss and Alzheimers is social isolation. A study by The National Council on the Aging of 2,300 hearing impaired adults found that people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to experience loneliness, worry, depression, anxiety, and paranoiaand are less likely to join organized and casual social activities. When a person withdraws from life, their risk for dementia intensifies.;In short, the less we stimulate our brains by interacting with other people, places, and thingsand the less we use our brains to hear and listenthe more quickly our brains decline, putting us at greater risk for dementia.