Hearing Loss linked to Dementia

In a 2013 study, he and his colleagues tracked the overall cognitive abilities (including concentration, memory and planning skills) of nearly 2,000 older adults whose average age was 77. After six years, those who began the study with hearing loss severe enough to interfere with conversation were 24 percent more likely than those with normal hearing to have seen their cognitive abilities diminish. Essentially, the researchers say, hearing loss seemed to speed up age-related cognitive decline.

In a 2011 study focusing on dementia, Lin and his colleagues monitored the cognitive health of 639 people who were mentally sharp when the study began. The researchers tested the volunteers’ mental abilities 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, the more likely the person was to develop dementia. Compared with people of normal hearing, those with moderate hearing loss had triple the risk.

Lin is quick to point out that simply being at increased risk does not mean a person is certain to develop dementia.

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