Of the 48,000,000 people living in the US having some degree of hearing loss, most go untreated, largely because of the high cost of hearing aids.
Others avoid hearing aids because they feel hearing loss is a normal process of aging or because they don’t want “to look old.”
A recent study led by a hearing loss expert at Johns Hopkins University of 1,984 adults, average age 77, concluded that those with hearing loss had lower scores at baseline on a global cognitive test and were more likely to have considerable cognitive impairment after 6 years.
Additionally, they had a 30 to 40% faster rate of cognitive decline: the worse the hearing, the worse and more rapid the decline.
These data held true after researchers factored in age, smoking, stroke history, hypertension and depression, confirming the findings of two earlier studies at Johns Hopkins.
Hearing loss impacts cognition for a variety of reasons: Hearing loss compromises working memory because so much more effort is needed to hear and process what is heard.
Hearing loss leads to increased social isolation and loneliness—two risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia—because of reduced stimulation.
It’s also possible that hearing loss and cognitive decline share the same physiological mechanisms so that when on is impaired, so is the other.
Because hearing loss has a serious impact on quality of life, including increased risk of falls, social isolation and depression, it’s a situation that shouldn’t remain untreated.
Stay tuned for Hidden Causes of Hearing Loss
SOURCE: University of CA, Berkeley Wellness Letter, May 2013 Study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, April 2013