Hearing Loss and Brain Shrinkage With Age

Updated Friday, April 13, 2018

…that hearing loss has been linked to dementia? According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, hearing loss may increase the risk of cognitive problems and even dementia:

In a study focusing on dementia, researchers monitored the cognitive health of 639 people who were mentally sharp when the study began. The volunteers’ mental abilities were tested regularly, following most for about 12 years, and some for as long as 18 years. The results were striking: The worse the initial hearing loss was, the more likely the person was to develop dementia. Compared with people of normal hearing, those with moderate hearing loss had triple the risk. Source: AARP

Older adults with impaired hearing may have a faster rate of brain shrinkage as they age, a new study suggests.

A number of studies have found that older people with hearing loss tend to have a quicker decline in their memory and thinking skills, compared to those with normal hearing.

“We’ve known that common, age-related hearing loss is associated with cognitive [mental] decline. The question is, why?” said Dr. Frank Lin, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and the lead researcher on the new study.

The findings, he said, offer one potential explanation: Older adults with hearing problems lose brain volume more quickly than their peers with normal hearing.

But the “biggest question,” Lin said, is whether treating hearing impairment can slow changes in brain structure and, more importantly, delay dementia.
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