Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline
Recently I hosted a lunch and learn for many of my patients at Compass Hearing Center, located in Denver City, Texas. With the help of my friend and presenter shown in the above picture, Dr. Jennifer Bobo with Oticon, we explained the facts that associate cognitive decline with hearing loss. We also went over all possible solutions to treat hearing loss and decrease the risk of early dementia and cognitive decline. I want to make it clear that having hearing loss doesn’t necessarily cause cognitive decline or dementia, and having dementia or cognitive decline may not be caused by hearing loss. The correlation does exist however, which is why I am sharing this online to help bring more awareness to hearing loss.
Did you know that studies indicate that people with hearing loss have accelerated rates of cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia? This happens because reduced high pitch stimulation (known as high frequency hearing loss) can result in reduced gray matter volumes in areas like the auditory cortex (the area in the brain where speech in processed). This reduction of brain gray matter can result in reduced speech comprehension. In a long-term study completed at Johns Hopkins, the following facts were determined:
Adults who had untreated hearing loss experienced cognitive decline 30-40% faster than those with normal hearing.
The decline in cognitive abilities appeared 3.2 years sooner than for those who had normal hearing.
This study estimated that as many as “27 million Americans over age 50, including 2/3 of men and women age 70 or older” have some form of hearing loss.
More alarmingly, only 15% of those who could benefit from the use of a hearing aid use them.
Many times people with hearing loss tend to isolate themselves, perhaps because they are embarrassed of their hearing loss or frustrated with straining just to listen. According to the AARP website, social isolation is also a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. There is some good news though! In most cases, hearing loss is treatable! Stimulating the ears and nerves along the auditory pathway with a hearing aid is like waking those nerves up and giving them a workout. Just like when you exercise your muscles, the stronger and more effective your ears, auditory nerves, and brain can be with hearing aid use! Additionally, you may not have to concentrate as hard to understand speech, lessening strain on the body and improving cognition rate and memory function. If you don’t have to strain to listen to speech, you may actually want to engage in social activities, which may improve your quality of life as well as combat depression and dementia.
If this blog sounds like you or someone you know, please contact Dr. Shannon Parker for more information and to schedule your hearing evaluation at 806-592-7030.
Johns Hopkins University. “Hearing Loss Accelerates Brain Function Decline in Older Adults”. Published January 23, 2013. JAMA.
Griffin, K., Bouton, K. “Hearing Loss Linked to Dementia”. AARP. Taken from the AARP website January 30, 2018.
Auditory cortex, sign of age related hearing loss. Journal for the Association for Research in Otolaryngology. 2013
Hearing loss in older adults affects neural systems. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2011
Amieva. Self-reported hearing loss, hearing aids and cognitive decline in older adults: A 25-year study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2015.