Age-Related Hearing Loss is a Risk Factor For Dementia

Dementia is an increasingly common problem in our aging population.  With advances in medical treatment, people are living longer, and are at increased risk of developing dementia.  Current pharmacologic approaches to treating dementia have demonstrated very limited success.  Strategies to prevent the onset of dementia would be more effective in reducing the associated costs and social burdens.

Approximately one-third of adults older than age 65 experiences disabling hearing loss.  Studies indicate that age-related hearing loss precedes the onset of dementia by 5-10 years.  Hearing loss contributes to social isolation, reducing interpersonal communication which is critical to maintaining cognitive function.  In the United States, only 1 in 5 adults with hearing loss wears hearing aids.

We commonly see patients with hearing loss and recommend hearing aids.  The most common response is “I’m not ready”.  However, patients who begin using hearing aids at a younger age adapt more easily, and regain normal social interaction more readily.  Engaging in conversation is like exercise for the brain, and is one of the few ‘tools’ we have to limit the onset of dementia.

If your friends or family question your hearing, or if you find yourself avoiding conversation or social gatherings because your hearing is limited, schedule an appointment for a hearing test.  If hearing aids are recommended, try them!  In New York State you may return a hearing aid within 45 days for a full refund, so there is nothing to lose by trying.  The aid that helps your hearing may also save your mind.

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