Dementia: How is hearing loss connected?

SOUTHERN UTAH Too many times as audiologists we have people tell us that they have decided not to treat their hearing loss at this time. There are many reasons why they choose not to pursue treatment. Some of these reasons include that they aren’t ready, or that they don’t think that the hearing loss is bad enough right now, or that they will just wait until the hearing loss gets really bad and people have to yell at them … then they will do something.

I know that we have previously discussed some of the effects of untreated hearing loss (like depression, anxiety, withdrawal, etc.). Today, I would like to discuss untreated hearing loss and its effects on dementia.

There was a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. and other hearing experts, that found that older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal. This study also showed that individuals with hearing loss had their cognitive abilities decline 30-40 percent faster than those individuals with normal hearing.

Lin also found that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. The study also found that the more hearing loss they had, the higher their likelihood of developing dementia.

Let me repeat that: seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing.

Lin’s study is not the only one that shows this correlation. Other studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can contribute to a decrease in cognitive function. Wingfield, et. al. showed that people with hearing loss also have less gray matter in their auditory cortex (the part of the brain that processes the sounds we hear) as compared to those that don’t have hearing loss. It is thought that since people with hearing loss have to expend so much time and energy on hearing and comprehending what is being said that they don’t have the resources to perform some of the higher level functions involved with hearing. This lack of stimulation can contribute to dementia and other cognitive disabilities.

To summarize, if you know or suspect someone who is suffering from untreated hearing loss, please invite them to come into our office. In doing so, we will be able to determine the best treatment so that their cognitive abilities won’t deteriorate faster than is necessary. Until next time … ”Hear’s” to good hearing.

Dr. Eric L. Maxwell, Au.D, FAAA, was raised in St. George and spent a lot of time in the Cedar City in his youth. He studied Audiology at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah and earned a Master’s of Science degree in Audiology from the University of Utah. Upon graduating, Dr. Maxwell and his family moved to Tucson, Arizona where he practiced Audiology for five years. When an opportunity came to move to Cedar City, Dr. Maxwell jumped at the chance and have been back in Cedar City for the past 8 years. He loves the beautiful scenery, friendly people, and the community. Dr.

Maxwell specializes in:

  • Digital Hearing Aid Sales, Service and Counseling Specialist
  • Earmold and Hearing Protection Specialist
  • Diagnostic Medical Hearing Assessments for Adults and Children
  • Industrial Hearing Conservation Specialist

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