Researchers from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging have released a new study on how adults with hearing loss, even mild, are more likely to develop dementia than those adults who have normal hearing.

Both men and women who suffered from major hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia. Those who only have mild hearing loss are twice more likely.

The study followed over 600 volunteers all from the ages of 36 to 90 who did not have dementia. The volunteers were tested for about twenty years. Researchers found that the risk of dementia increased only once hearing abilities were being interfered with the need to communicate.


Dr. Boyd examining a patient

Frank Lin, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Otology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine thinks it’s more likely that the neurological stress of dealing with hearing loss causes dementia in adults.

“If you are out to dinner with friends at a busy restaurant and it’s very, very loud, by the time you get home you’re exhausted, because you spend so much time trying to think about the words people are saying, to decipher everything,” Lin says.

Adults who have a difficult time listening can’t follow the flow of conversations and therefore feel frustrated and even embarrassed. With these struggles, people tend to stop socializing and going out becoming isolated. Previous studies show that this also links to a higher risk of dementia.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that over 9 million Americans, both men and women, over the age of 65 deal with hearing loss.

Lin says that adults take high blood pressure or heart disease more attention than hearing loss. People just accept hearing loss as a part of growing older but it may be necessary to take a closer look, says Lin.


Dr. Cash and Dr. Linton reviewing test results.

But researchers have other questions that need answering. Like, can hearing aids make a difference?

Researchers say that treating hearing loss may only just delay dementia and that could cause serious consequences. The volunteers in the hearing loss study reported if they wore a hearing aid or not but researchers did not ask how often they used them or how well they worked.

In June 2011, Johns Hopkins researchers and volunteers will begin a new study to see if hearing devices or cochlear implants do lower the risk of dementia but these results will not be available for several years.
via AARP