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What Is the Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia?

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In a 2013 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, older adults with hearing loss were 24 times more likely than seniors with normal hearing to experience a decline in cognitive function, including dementia. Since two-thirds of Americans older than 70 have some degree of hearing loss, these findings have a tremendous impact on our collective understanding of this phenomenon.

The study followed 2,000 older adults for 6 years and found those whose hearing loss was severe enough to interfere with conversation were also the most likely to experience difficulty with memory and cognition. In another study published in 2011, the same group of scientists followed 639 people for 12 to 18 years. The worse initial hearing loss was among seniors in that group, the more likely they were to develop dementia. For those with moderate hearing loss, the risk of dementia was triple that of seniors with normal hearing.

While experts don’t know exactly what causes the link between hearing loss and dementia, one theory attributes it to a common physiological pathway, some physical cause that contributes to both conditions. Others believe it results from cognitive load, the idea that people with a hearing loss strain to communicate, which overtaxes the brain. Another theory suggests social isolation among those with hearing loss may be a factor while some doctors believe hearing loss may actually affect brain structure. However, the cognitive and social stimulation provided by dementia caregivers in Phoenix can help delay the onset of dementia symptoms.

Though more research is needed, this news need not be alarming for seniors with hearing loss and their family members who provide them with home care. Phoenix care experts note cochlear implant therapy for those with hearing loss may be able to help stave off the development of dementia.

If your loved one has developed a memory-related condition and needs assistance with cognitive stimulation or help with daily tasks, turn to Home Care Assistance. All of our caregivers are trained in our proprietary Cognitive Therapeutics Method, an activities-based program designed to stimulate cognitive function. In addition to providing dementia and Alzheimer’s home care Phoenix families trust, we also offer comprehensive care for seniors with a variety of other conditions. For more information on our senior care services, please call one of our qualified Care Managers at 602.388.1085 to schedule a no-obligation consultation.