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New studies show connections between dementia and hearing loss

By Neil & Shannon Aiello, Doctors of Audiology, Columbia Basin Hearing Center

In 2011, a study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging researchers suggested that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. Since that time, many other studies have revealed supporting results, however the link between hearing aids, hearing loss, and cognition have yet to be determined.

The researchers are still unclear about the reason for the link but suspect a possible neurological pathology may be present with both conditions, or perhaps that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, which is a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders.

The study continues that a starting point for interventions — even as simple as hearing aids — could possibly delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing. Our Doctors recently attended a convention which presented new development from the PAQUID study that supports that hearing aid usage slows the progression of dementia in a significant percentage of participants. This study is under review for publication, but will change the way hearing, hearing aids, hearing rehabilitation, and cognition is viewed by Physicians, Audiologists, and our other allied health professionals with a geriatric specialty. Hearing loss cannot be continued to be minimized in patients. We all must start to recognize widespread effects that it has not just on cognition, but also many other areas of well being such as increasing patients psychosocial satisfaction, and the reduced physical stress on the body as a result of increased mental capacity needed to understand speech with untreated hearing loss.

In the past we advocated that if you or a loved one has dementia, or are beginning to show signs of dementia, to be sure to have their hearing checked. With this new research, we are advocating that ALL SENIORS be screened for hearing loss as a regular part of their annual evaluations. Please call the Doctors of Audiology at Columbia Basin Hearing and Balance Center to schedule an audiological evaluation for your loved one.