You may have read recent findings about hearing loss and Dementia in your local newspaper or heard about this as it made headlines in the news this July. Researchers from Michigan to Norway have combed through the studies to evaluate the data relating to which factors contribute to Dementia and by how much. Of all of the factors evaluated, middle aged hearing loss (aged 55+) turned out to be one of the TOP 9 risk factors for Dementia and most importantly, a potentially modifiable one. Evidence shows that hearing loss continued to increase dementia risk in later life as well.
Surprisingly, hearing loss has not previously been taken into account when looking into risk factors for Dementia. Long-term cohort studies have shown that even mild levels of hearing loss increase the long-term risk of cognitive decline in those who start out without any cognitive issues but have hearing loss present. This is one of the first times that hearing loss has been evaluated as a significant risk factor for Dementia.
Researchers concluded that acting sooner rather than later on risk factors of Dementia, and well as preventative strategies are critical to reduce Dementia becoming one of the greatest global health challenges for health care in our future. They also highlighted that technology should be used to its best advantage to intervene with these issues, and hearing aid technology could certainly be considered part of this.
Their conclusions suggest that there is room for more detailed study about interventions such as hearing aids, and to determine the most effective timing of intervention and type of treatment for hearing loss related to Dementia.
Interestingly however they highlight the important fact that any type of technological device is NOT a replacement for social contact. Fortunately for patients who wear hearing aids, previous research shows that they stay more engaged and experience LESS social isolation when they receive treatment for their hearing loss. The authors in fact point out this fact regarding hearing aid treatment; that beyond the stimulation of the auditory system, the increased access to social interaction and reduced accompanying depression may in fact be the reason for the benefit of hearing aids when hearing loss is present.
Other factors this study evaluated that were modifiable included higher level education, hypertension, obesity, smoking, depression, physical inactivity, social isolation and diabetes. Hearing loss was in fact the highest modifiable risk factor.
Yet another reason to follow safe listening habits when around loud sounds (using proper hearing protection) at concerts and when doing yard work this summer and/or to encourage your spouse or loved one to get a hearing evaluation if you have concerns about them. Don’t forget to try our online hearing screener www.audiologyinnovations/escreener for a free quick hearing screening, or of course come in for a full hearing evaluation. Contact us at 403-252-4722 for an appointment.