Q: I’ve heard that there’s a link between hearing loss and dementia—is this true?
A: This subject has been in the news quite a bit lately. For years researchers have suspected a connection between hearing loss and dementia, but just this year a study funded by the National Institutes of Health determined that a mild hearing loss of 25 decibels (dB) can increase the development of cognitive problems by 30% to 40%.
When asked for an explanation of the cognitive decline, Frank Lin—Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine otologist and assistant professor, and the study’s lead author—offered as possible contributing factors the combination of social isolation and the extra mental effort it takes to understand sounds.
Dementia is on the rise in the U.S. with over 4 million affected by the malady, and recent estimates place the cost on families and society at $157 billion to $215 billion a year, making it more expensive than cancer and heart disease. Hearing should become a regular part of the conversation during general health exams, and regular hearing evaluations the norm, in order to delay the onset of cognitive decline.
While hearing aids aren’t a cure for the effects of dementia, appropriately fit hearing technology is designed to alleviate the energy required to understand sounds, and to decrease feelings of isolation by re-engaging people with the world around them through better hearing.