Hearing and Cognition

Hearing Loss and Cognition: What’s the Link?

Emily Martinson, AuD, PhD

Cognition and brain health has become a major topic in the world of healthcare, especially in the past couple of years. Patients often ask us as hearing healthcare professionals, “What is the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive health? Does my hearing loss relate to my brain? Am I at risk for developing cognitive decline?” The answer to these complicated questions is not as simple as it may seem- we are learning more about the brain every day!

A recent study out of Johns Hopkins showed a link between hearing loss and dementia. This study was conducted on over 2,000 seniors and the results were clear: the patients with hearing loss had 61% more diagnoses of dementia than those without hearing loss.

While this statistic is troubling, the study also investigated if treating hearing loss would help to reduce this link. After all, we can only address an issue if we know what to do. Thankfully, the study showed that in the patients who had hearing loss diagnoses, hearing aid usage reduced the dementia risk by 32%. The link is clear- patients with hearing loss can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by seeking hearing aid treatment.

Although none of us can see the future, we can make some predictions on the impact of hearing loss on cognition using data. A recent report discussed this very topic (Risk factors for dementia (thelancet.com)). The report noted that if hearing loss were eliminated as a risk fact, there would be an 8% reduction in the prevalence of dementia. That finding is a huge positive!

Although this data is fascinating to read, the big question remains: what do I do with this information? The long and short of it is, if an individual has a hearing loss and wants to do the most to reduce their dementia risk, hearing aids are a great option. Choosing the right hearing aid for you is the first step in preserving your very important cognition.

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