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The Silent Epidemic: Understanding the Link Between Dementia and Hearing Loss

Elderly Man Cupping Ear Because He Is Struggling To Hear

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at the end of 2023, there were over 55 million people worldwide diagnosed with dementia. This is an astonishing number so any new findings should be taken very seriously. Dementia for a longtime has been a hard to understand disease. However, in recent years medical researchers have identified a connection between dementia and hearing loss. 

For centuries, hearing loss has been considered a natural part of aging but new findings highlight a different story. Hearing loss, which is the third most common health condition in America, is attracting attention from healthcare professionals, researchers and policymakers due to the association with dementia that has been identified. At North Atlanta ENT & Allergy, we feel it is important to shed more light on this discovery and explore what it means for our patients. 

A Growing Concern

The connection that has been identified between dementia and hearing loss may not be crystal clear but several studies have been conducted that display a correlation between the two. Research conducted has concluded that people with untreated hearing loss may be more likely to experience cognitive decline and dementia later in life. Identifying this link stresses the importance for early intervention and for taking preventative measures where possible. It is important for everyone to be proactive and take the steps required to prevent hearing loss. For instance, it is important to: 

  • Protect Ears from Loud Noises associated with things such as concerts, constructions and listening to music. Earplugs and protective headphones are great for this purpose. 
  • Avoid Extended Exposure to Loud Sounds such as when using saws or lawnmowers. If you must be exposed to loud sounds for long periods of time, wear protective gear and take regular breaks to give your ears a rest. 
  • Maintain Good Hygiene for Ears by avoiding inserting objects such as cotton swabs into ears, which can push wax further into ear canals. 
  • Monitor and Manage Ear Infections to prevent any potential long-term damage. 
  • Get Regular Hearing Check-Ups to enable yourself to obtain timely intervention If suffering from hearing loss. 
  • Manage Chronic Health Conditions as conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes can contribute to hearing loss.

Unraveling the Connection

Numerous studies have provided evidence that there is a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. A study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) identified that older adults are experiencing cognitive decline at a more accelerated rate than those without hearing issues. There was also a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University that found that those suffering hearing loss were more likely to develop dementia over time. 

So, why are those with hearing loss proving to be more likely to develop dementia? One hypothesis is that the brain’s cognitive resources are diverted in order to compensate for untreated hearing loss. This, then leaves fewer resources available for other cognitive functions. In addition to this fact, is the social isolation that often accompanies hearing impairment. 

The Importance of Early Detection and Intervention

With this determination comes good news because when hearing loss is detected early, it can make a world of difference by helping to reduce the chances of developing dementia. At North Atlanta ENT & Allergy, we stress the importance of hearing evaluations especially for our older patients. This is because identifying and addressing hearing loss early on can help reduce the decline of cognitive function and quality of life. 

For those that are already identifying cognitive decline or that have been diagnosed with dementia, addressing hearing loss can still offer benefits. Studies have displayed that hearing aids can improve communication, social interaction and a cognitive function in those that have been diagnosed with dementia. In providing access to helpful interventions, we at NAENTA can help improve the quality of life for patients and their families. 

Promoting Hearing Health and Mental Fitness 

As healthcare providers, it’s our job to raise awareness about the association between dementia and hearing loss and advocate for care that addresses both conditions. Advocating includes promoting hearing health education, pushing for regular hearing screenings and facilitating access to audiological evaluations and interventions. 

North Atlanta ENT & Allergy is dedicated to providing comprehensive care that addresses not only symptoms but the root cause. In understanding the link between dementia and hearing loss, we can support our patients through proper diagnosis, treatment and more! If you suspect you or a loved one is struggling to hear, contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our providers today!

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