Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. One in 10 people in the U.S. over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s dementia, and the disease is the sixth largest killer in America.
Incidentally, hearing loss is also correlated with age. According to the National Institute for Health, approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.
Now, a new study for the first time has found a link between these two conditions that occur with advanced age.
An ongoing study of 1500 middle aged men and women found that volunteers who self-reported being diagnosed with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were more likely to do poorly on future cognitive testing and more than twice as likely to be characterized as having mild cognitive impairment.
This cognitive impairment, the researchers go on to stipulate, could very well form the foundation for developing Alzheimer’s. Ultimately, the study suggests that hearing loss could be an indicator of increasing cognitive decline in older adults and that identification and treatment of hearing loss could potentially minimize the risk.
The results of the study are no reason to panic. First, it’s important to remember that correlation does not mean causation. It’s entirely possible that the two conditions simply happen to occur in advanced age (along with many other conditions that tend to happen at that time), rather than being linked.
However, because various studies have shown that mild cognitive impairment can ultimately grow into or result in Alzheimer’s, the harmful mental results of hearing loss should not be underestimated.
This potential link is just one of many reasons to do regular hearing tests and promptly treat any hearing loss. Other important benefits of hearing loss treatment include improved quality of life and easier communication with one’s family and peers—lifestyle factors that, incidentally, have all been linked to longer, healthier lifespans. Early detection of hearing problems helps to minimize a variety of physical and mental problems, including cognitive decline, depression, and social isolation.
Another recent study found that the adoption of hearing aids by the elderly with hearing loss actually led to improvements in cognitive skills like memory and thinking, so treatment of hearing loss not only helps to prevent cognitive decline—it can actually boost cognitive function.
For over 25 years, Chicago Hearing Services has enhanced the lives of the patients we serve in Chicagoland. Our entire team is dedicated to providing you with excellent, personalized care and service to make you or your loved one’s visits as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Dr. Vetter builds an individualized hearing wellness plan for each patient, utilizing best practices as well as listening to the needs of the patient.
If you think you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, there’s a multitude of reasons to act quickly and get the help you need. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!