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HWorld expert says using hearing
aids could help fight dementia.

World expert says using hearing aids could help fight dementia!
Posted: 18th February 2016

Professor Frank Lin is a world expert on hearing loss and cognitive decline, and he is Professor of geriatric medicine and otolaryngology at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. He recently spoke about the implications of hearing loss and our thinking abilities at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington. “Treating hearing loss could potentially help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia” said Lin.

Lin outlined how hearing loss is a common health condition, but only about 25% of those affected use hearing aids. In fact hearing loss is the third most common health condition in adults, and in Ireland a quarter of a million adults have a significant disabling hearing loss as defined by the World Health Organisation. But hearing loss is often overlooked by both the individual affected and health professionals. “I think many clinicians typically perceive hearing loss as being inevitable, and hence inconsequential, part of ageing” said Lin.

Typically the onset of hearing loss is gradual and may go unnoticed or be ignored by the individual. In fact the average delay between the onset of hearing loss and a person seeking treatment is ten years.


up to 36% of dementia risk may be
attributable to hearing loss


Consequences of hearing loss

As Professor Lin points out, hearing loss has a significant impact on those affected. A 2011 study by Lin and his colleagues found a strong association between hearing loss and dementia: those with mild hearing loss had double the rate of dementia, those with moderate hearing loss had three times the rate, while those with severe hearing loss had five times the rate of dementia compared to hearing peers.

Lin estimated that up to 36% of dementia risk may be attributable to hearing loss, although he said this estimate needs further testing. In another study, Lin and his colleagues found that people with hearing loss had 30–40% faster rates of cognitive decline on certain tasks compared to hearing peers.

Research has shown that people with hearing loss often strain to listen when talking to others in everyday life. This strain is not only fatiguing, but may lead to ‘cognitive overload’, overtaxing the brain and reducing mental capacities such as short term memory.

A 2014 study examining brain scans of participant aged 56–86 found that compared to hearing peers, those with hearing loss had increased rates of decline in the volumes of the right temporal lobe in the brain, an area of the brain critical for language processing.


hearing aids help reduce
the rate of cognitive decline


Taking action

The good news from a recent French study is that hearing aids can help to reduce the rate of cognitive decline for those with hearing loss. So the clear advice for individuals who think they may have a hearing loss but have yet to talk action, is to talk to their GP and arrange a hearing test.
For more information read our leaflet Concerned about hearing loss?, available below.

For health practitioners such as GPs, the clear advice is to consider hearing loss as a potentially significant factor in the health and quality of life of patients, particularly those aged over 50. Hearing loss is linked not only with increased cognitive decline, but also depression, unemployment and social isolation. GPs may need to counsel patients to consider having their hearing assessed.

And policy makers also need to be proactive in considering effective treatments for hearing loss as having potential not only to improve the health and quality of life of those affected, but also to reduce the economic burden of untreated hearing loss. Line Break Image

Related to this story…

Hearing Aids helps keep your brain healthy!
Posted: 5th November 2015

A French study has confirmed for the first time that using hearing aids slows down the rate of cognitive decline for people with hearing loss. Cognitve decline includes things like memory and concentration. [Read On] Hearing Aids helps keep your brain healthy!



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