& Mental Health
Loss in Senior Citizens Once Again Linked
With Development of Dementia
Risk of developing
Alzheimer's disease also increased with
hearing loss - for every 10 decibels of
hearing loss, the extra risk increased by
14, 2011 – For years researchers have been
finding an association between hearing loss
in senior citizens and dementia, yet, loss
of hearing is seldom found in any list of
dementia or Alzheimer’s warning signs. The
latest study to be published also finds
older adults with hearing loss appear more
likely to develop dementia and the risk
increases as hearing loss become more severe.
The latest report
is in the February issue of Archives of
Neurology, on the JAMA/Archives journals.
Another study published in JAMA 22
years ago this month - Relationship of
Hearing Impairment to Dementia and Cognitive
Dysfunction in Older Adults - concluded
there is an association between hearing
impairment and dementia and offered support
to the hypothesis that hearing impairment
contributes to cognitive dysfunction in
By the year 2050,
an estimated 100 million people or nearly
one in 85 individuals worldwide will be
affected by dementia, according to background
information in the article. Interventions
that could delay the onset of dementia by
even one year could lead to a more than
10 percent decrease in the prevalence of
dementia in 2050, the authors note.
there are no known interventions that currently
have such effectiveness," the report says.
approaches have focused on the identification
of putative risk factors (factors believed
to exist) that could be targeted for prevention,
based on the assumption that dementia is
easier to prevent than to reverse. Candidate
factors include low involvement in leisure
activities and social interactions, sedentary
state, diabetes mellitus and hypertension."
John Hopkins Medical, Baltimore, were led
by Frank R. Lin, M.D., Ph.D., in a quest
to determine if hearing loss could be identified
as a risk factor for dementia. If so, it
might then provide a way to slow the development
of mental disease by slowing the development
of hearing loss.
639 individuals age 36 to 90 without dementia.
Participants initially underwent cognitive
and hearing testing between 1990 and 1994
and were followed for the development of
dementia and Alzheimer's disease through
May 31, 2008.
Hearing loss is one
of the most common conditions affecting
older adults. Approximately 17 percent,
or 36 million, of American adults say that
they have some degree of hearing loss, according
to NIH Senior Health’s section on hearing
loss. Roughly one-third of Americans 65
to 74 years of age and 47 percent of those
75 and older have hearing loss. Men are
more likely to experience hearing loss than
Of the participants
in this study -
● 125 had mild hearing loss (25 to 40 decibels),
● 53 had moderate hearing loss (41 to 70 decibels) and
● six had severe hearing loss (more than 70 decibels).
During a median
(midpoint) follow-up of 11.9 years, 58 individuals
were diagnosed with dementia, including
37 who had Alzheimer's disease.
The risk of dementia
was increased among those with hearing loss
of greater than 25 decibels, with further
increases in risk observed among those with
moderate or severe hearing loss as compared
with mild hearing loss.
age 60 and older, more than one-third (36.4
percent) of the risk of dementia was associated
with hearing loss.
The risk of developing
Alzheimer's disease specifically also increased
with hearing loss, such that for every 10
decibels of hearing loss, the extra risk
increased by 20 percent.
There was no
association between self-reported use of
hearing aids and a reduction in dementia
or Alzheimer's disease risk.
"A number of
mechanisms may be theoretically implicated
in the observed association between hearing
loss and incident dementia," the authors
be over-diagnosed in individuals with hearing
loss, or those with cognitive impairment
may be over-diagnosed with hearing loss.
The two conditions may share an underlying
loss may be casually related to dementia,
possibly through exhaustion of cognitive
reserve, social isolation, environmental
deafferentation [elimination of sensory
nerve fibers] or a combination of these
in other independent cohorts, the findings
of our study could have substantial implications
for individuals and public health. Hearing
loss in older adults may be preventable
and can be practically addressed with current
technology (e.g., digital hearing aids and
cochlear implants) and with other rehabilitative
interventions focusing on optimizing social
and environmental conditions for hearing.
“With the increasing
number of people with hearing loss, research
into the mechanistic pathways linking hearing
loss with dementia and the potential of
rehabilitative strategies to moderate this
association are critically needed."
was supported by the Intramural Research
Program of the National Institute on Aging
and a grant from the National Institute
on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
NIH Senior Health – Hearing Loss
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