Hearing Loss and Dementia
In recent years, many research studies have found correlations between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk for developing dementia.
According to one study published in 2011 by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, people with severe or profound hearing loss may be about five times as likely than their peers without hearing loss to develop dementia over the course of many years.
According to another study by the Lancet Commissions, approximately 47 million people worldwide were living with dementia in 2015, leading to an estimated cost of $818 billion. Nearly 85 percent of that figure is related to non-medical costs, such as those affecting family and society. Experts estimate the number of cases of individuals living with dementia will increase to 66 million by 2030 and 131 million by 2050. The report was presented at the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a broad term that covers many symptoms of cognitive decline. Most often, dementia is defined as a decrease in memory or overall cognitive skills that reduce a person’s ability to complete daily activities. Currently, Alzheimer’s disease is the most commonly diagnosed type of dementia.
It is estimated that a person develops Alzheimer’s disease every 65 seconds in the United States. Dementia is a progressive disorder, meaning it typically starts very mildly and becomes more severe over time. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia; however, various treatment options do exist that can help prolong a person’s quality of life and mental ability when living with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia.
Dementia is a debilitating condition affecting individuals as well as their family members. People with dementia are twice as likely to be hospitalized than their cognitively healthy peers, according to a study by University of Washington researchers.
Dementia and Hearing Loss
Cognitive decline is not scientifically proven to have a direct connection to hearing loss; however, many studies have found that those with untreated hearing loss tend to experience a higher risk for developing dementia than their peers with average hearing.
One of the most notable studies on the connection between hearing loss and dementia came out of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2011. To complete this study, Dr. Frank Lin and his research team used data from the Biltmore Longitudinal Study on Aging (BLSA) on 639 men and women.
These men and women were frequently assessed by BLSA in both cognitive abilities as well as hearing over the course of 18 years. Even after controlling for other potentially contributing factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic status, race and smoking habits – people with hearing loss were more likely to have experienced cognitive decline over the course of the study than those with normal hearing. Those with just mild hearing loss were about twice as likely to have developed dementia and those with the most severe or profound hearing losses were about five times as likely to have experienced dementia than their peers with normal hearing.