Researchers have long known that hearing loss is associated with other medical conditions. A new study shows a link between hearing loss and dementia in older adults. Here is what you need to know about the study, its findings, and what you can do to help prevent dementia.
The study was led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with the findings published in January of 2023 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of 2,413 older adults. The data was provided by the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), and about half of the individuals included in the data were over the age of 80.
The analysis found a clear association between the severity of hearing loss and dementia. In study participants with moderate/severe hearing loss, the prevalence of dementia was 61 percent higher than in individuals with normal hearing. Hearing aid use was associated with a 32 percent lower prevalence in individuals who had moderate/severe hearing loss.
Past studies have also found an association between hearing loss and dementia. Those studies, however, were limited in that they relied on in-clinic data collection. This means that previous studies lacked data from vulnerable populations who may not have access to a clinic. For this study, the researchers collected data from participants using in-home testing and interviews.
Hearing loss is a major health issue, affecting two-thirds of adults in the United States over the age of 70. While you can take steps to protect your hearing health, like wearing proper hearing protection during exposure to loud noises, there is no 100 percent effective way to prevent hearing loss. Even if you take the appropriate steps to protect your hearing, you may experience age-related hearing loss as you age.
Although hearing loss is not completely preventable, it is treatable. Wearing hearing aids can not only help you hear sounds that you would be unable to hear without them, but they can also help protect your cognitive health. This recent study found that among individuals with moderate/severe hearing loss, the prevalence of dementia was lower in those who used hearing aids. The risk for dementia is greatest when hearing loss is left untreated.
Untreated hearing loss also increases your risk for other conditions, like depression, anxiety, social isolation, and falls. If you believe you may be experiencing hearing loss, the best way to protect your overall health is to have your hearing tested by a hearing professional. Wearing hearing aids can help to lower your risk for dementia and other conditions. Fortunately, hearing aids are now more discreet, advanced, and affordable than ever before. Your hearing health professional will be able to help you find a hearing aid that fits your needs.
For more information about the link between hearing loss and dementia, we invite you to contact our office today. We are eager to assist you.