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Can Loss of Hearing Lead to Dementia?

As we all know, hearing loss is a natural part of the aging process. The Hearing Language Association of America reveals that approximately 25 percent of Americans within the age group of 65 and 74 suffer from severe loss of hearing.

Unfortunately, there are several aspects of hearing loss that is never revealed by the statistical figures. This includes the frustration involved in requesting others to repeat themselves or the inability to hear discussions in a social gathering. Loss of hearing truly transforms the life of an individual.

In fact, there is another aspect of hearing loss that is hardly discussed. Most of you may not have even heard that there is a correlation between hearing loss and dementia. This makes it even more important for anyone suffering from impaired hearing to consult an audiologist or ear doctor as soon as possible.

What is Dementia?

The medical term dementia is not the name of one medical condition but refers to a combination of several symptoms. Lets us take a detailed look at dementia to understand how it can be related to loss of hearing.

As human beings get older, many of their brain cells stop functioning as efficiently as they did at a younger age. However, it is important to remember that unlike hearing loss, dementia is not a natural part of aging. Dementia is a progressive syndrome, and it affects at least two of the human characteristic traits amongst focus, memory, communication, attention, judgment, and performance of everyday tasks.

At present, more than 47 million people around the world are suffering from dementia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this figure is most likely to reach 75 million within the year 2030.

The WHO also reveals several interesting facts related to dementia.

  1. Out of all cases of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type contributing to 60 to 70 percent of cases.
  2. Every three seconds, a new patient is diagnosed with dementia.
  3. An estimated $818 billion is spent worldwide every year for the treatment of dementia patients.
  4. In almost 10% of all dementia cases, the sufferer is a young individual.

Hearing Loss Facts:

It is important to note that the loss of hearing does not happen all of a sudden. In most instances, the hearing tends to get worse over a period of time. Hearing loss may also develop because of risk factors such as extended exposure to loud noise, chronic ear infections, aging, tinnitus, and Meniere’s disease.

The Link between Hearing Loss and Dementia:

A study by Johns Hopkins University indicated that compared to individuals with hearing loss, those with normal hearing are less like to develop dementia in the future. Also, the likelihood of developing dementia is two and three times more respectively, for individuals with mild and moderate hearing loss. On the other hand, this probability can be up to five times higher for individuals that have suffered severe hearing loss.

Another study published in 2013 by the Aging and Mental Health medical journal suggests that the rate of mental decline is 30 to 40 percent for persons with hearing loss. This percentage, however, is significantly lower for individuals with normal hearing.

According to contemporary theory, in the case of individuals with hearing loss, the brain ends up spending a lot of their cognitive load trying to understand different types of sounds. As a result, their brain may fail to complete its other functions in an effective manner.

It is also a known fact that loss of hearing can accelerate the process of atrophy in a part of the brain known as the cerebrum. This part of the brain is responsible for different important functions such as speech, vision, touch, emotions, and reasons. Loss of effectiveness of the cerebrum may also lead to deterioration of thought patterns and depression.

The link between loss of hearing and dementia clearly suggests that hearing well is more important than ever before. If you or any of your friends or family members experience hearing loss, immediately schedule an appointment with one of the audiologists at Georgia ENT.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

By Sheena Jordan
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