Dementia and
Hearing Loss

What is Dementia?

Dementia is used as an umbrella term to describe the symptoms of the condition which can include, memory loss, and difficulties problem-solving. This term is often interchanged with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause of Dementia [according to the Alzheimer’s Society]. Unfortunately, there is no current cure for Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Are we any closer to finding a cure for Dementia?

In July 2015, a new medication was tested by pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly. Recent research in to the medication, AVP-923, has shown that it could be used to help slow cognitive deterioration. In other words, helping to slow the rate of dementia.

Although the medication is still only in the testing stage, it is promising step in the search for a cure of Dementia.

How are Dementia and Hearing loss linked?

A study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging Research (USA) suggests that those who lose their hearing in later life are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time then those who retain their hearing. The findings, researchers say, could lead to new ways to combat dementia - a condition that affects millions of people worldwide and carries heavy societal burdens.Brain Icon

An 18 year study, monitoring 639 people, aged 36-90 (who were not cognitively impaired to begin with), was carried out. The study found that those with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss were twofold, threefold and fivefold, respectively, more likely to develop dementia in comparison to those who had normal hearing. The higher severity of hearing loss, the higher their likelihood of developing dementia overtime.

It is seen that the relationship between dementia and hearing loss is closely linked. Researchers have suggested that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, causing cognitive fatigue, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia. It is suggested that the worse the hearing impairment, the greater the risk of developing dementia. The link remained true, despite factors such as age, diabetes and blood pressure.

There is also speculation that hearing loss could cause social isolation and, therefore, dementia. Social isolation also has a well-known hold over other cognitive disorders and cognitive decline in general.

A study by Cardiff University researched the same link between hearing loss and dementia but expanded the findings more so. They hypothesised that low frequency hearing loss could be the early indication of vascular problems which can lead to hearing loss, stroke, heart attacks and dementia. It was also reported that hearing loss could lead to dementia or the other way round. It was also hypothesised that the early signs of dementia may have an effect on auditory thresholds.

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