Hearing loss is a common issue that many Americans experience as they age. However, researchers at Johns Hopkins found that Alzheimer's and dementia are linked to hearing loss, and people with hearing loss are much more likely to experience dementia or Alzheimer's than those with regular hearing. Unfortunately, as the risk of one increases as does the other. But there are ways to prevent it from worsening.
The study, which was published in AARP, followed 639 people who were between the ages of 36 to 90 who didn't have dementia. Participants were tested for dementia and hearing loss every two years for nearly two decades. The results found that people with hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia than those with regular hearing. In 12 years, 58 of the participants were diagnosed with dementia and 37 with Alzheimer's disease.
Study participants over the age of 60 had a 36.4 percent risk of dementia that was directly associated with hearing loss. For every 10 decibels of hearing lost, the risk of memory loss increased by 20 percent.
Neurological stress is the most obvious link between Alzheimer's and hearing loss, and it can expedite conditions. In addition, it might cause some individuals with hearing loss to avoid social situations altogether so they don't have to strain. This leads to social isolation and possibly depression.
"If you are out to dinner with friends at a busy restaurant and it's very, very loud, by the time you get home you're exhausted, because you spend so much time trying to think about the words people are saying, to decipher everything," Frank Lin, assistant professor in the Division of Otology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told AARP.
One of the reasons why people with hearing loss experience memory loss is because many do not take appropriate actions to treat the issue. According to Sergei Kochkin, the executive director of the Better Hearing Institute, hearing aids can help to manage symptoms of Alzheimer's because the brain isn't required to work as hard to understand speech on a regular basis.
In fact, the study by researchers at Johns Hopkins found that interventions at the onset of dementia could decrease symptoms by 10 percent over the next 40 years.
If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss, there's no better time to find an audiologist than now.