A study by the U.S. National Institute on Aging showed a link between hearing loss and dementia. It found that patients 60+ with hearing loss had a 35 percent higher risk of developing dementia.

Researchers monitored 600+ patients for signs of dementia over a four-year period. Data showed those with moderate to severe hearing loss developed such signs at a higher rate than others. For every additional loss of 10 decibels of hearing capacity, a patient’s risk for cognitive decline increased 20 percent.

More research is needed to find a definitive association. “Hearing loss might result from damage to nerve cells,” Dr. Richard B. Lipton said. “That means damage to the hearing organ and hair cells of the inner ear… that may be a kind of marker for similar damage to nerve cells involved in memory and higher cognition.”

People with hearing loss often become isolated. This may also increase the risk for mental decline, Lipton said, because interacting with others is crucial in preventing dementia.

The bottom line is, dementia has less to do with chronological age than previously believed. Researchers are focused instead on biological age and the overall health and lifestyle of those patients who exhibit early symptoms of cognitive decline.

If you think you may have hearing loss, contact AZ Hearing at 520.448.2895 for an appointment with one of our Doctors of Audiology.

Source: Lin FR, et al. Hearing loss and incident dementia. Jama Neurology. 2011; 65(5): 582-590.