Does Hearing Loss Lead to Dementia?

Last Updated : 08/28/20183 min read

The thought of losing aspects of your mental abilities as you age may be a scarier prospect than the thought of losing some of your physical abilities. In the case of hearing loss and dementia, symptoms between the two may be correlated.

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What causes hearing loss?

According to the National Institutes of Health, age-related hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults and hearing loss risk doubles each decade. Nearly two out of three adults 70 and older have hearing loss that affects daily communication. There is no known single cause of age related hearing loss according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. However, family history, exposure to loud noises, smoking, and diabetes all contribute to age-related hearing loss. Hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone-anchored hearing systems and assistive listening devices.

What causes dementia?

Dementia is caused by nerve cell damage in the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. Dementia symptoms include memory loss, communication difficulty, problem-solving difficulty and confusion and disorientation. Although dementia is not as common as hearing loss, dementia is still very common in seniors. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, one out of three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia according to the Mayo Clinic. Some dementias may also be caused by reactions to medications, vitamin deficiencies, and metabolic problems and endocrine abnormalities, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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What is the correlation between hearing loss and dementia?

According to a 2011 study reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people with severe hearing loss have a five-fold increased risk of all-cause dementia compared to individuals with normal hearing. Further, according to a 2014 study, people with hearing impairment have accelerated rates of whole brain atrophy. Atrophy is a loss of brain cells. Brain atrophy results in a loss of neurons and neuron connections, according to NIH. Unfortunately, use of a hearing aid is not necessarily a guaranteed way to prevent dementia. In 2014 the NIH reported that definitive evidence on the effects of hearing treatment on dementia is “years away.” However, there are likely still significant benefits and low risks to early screening and management of hearing loss. According to the NIH, a hearing aid can help a person listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities.

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