Recent research suggests that improving hearing loss with hearing aids reduces the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In 2011, a team of Johns Hopkins medical school researchers discovered a significant association between hearing loss and the risk of developing these unwanted cognitive conditions. The researchers looked at more than 600 people and found that the risk of dementia increased among those with at least a mild 25-decibel hearing loss, and went up as hearing loss progressed. In short, the worse someone’s hearing gets, the greater their risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.
But why would hearing loss increase the risk of dementia?
Frank R. Lin, the lead author of a study published in the Archives of Neurology, offered two possible explanations for the findings. Lin hypothesized that people with hearing problems must devote more cognitive resources to processing sound than people with good hearing. (Devoting more cognitive resources to sound limits brain power needed for other tasks.) Lin also noted that hearing problems often lead to social isolation, a known risk factor for dementia.
The Johns Hopkins researchers believe their findings could have substantial implications for individuals and public health because hearing loss is treatable with hearing instruments.
These findings underscore how important regular hearing tests are as part of preventative health care, and why most physicians recommend annual hearing exams. For information on how to schedule a free hearing exam, please contact (888) 719-0525.