A study published yesterday in a popular medical journal showed people with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia.
Almost everyone experiences some type of hearing loss during the aging process (a recent hearing aid specialist told me recently he now has more customers under 50 than over 50 thanks to earbuds!). But in this study published online in the JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found the connection between hearing loss and mental decline more pronounced.
Johns Hopkins University researchers looked at 1,984 adults in their 70s and 80s who had no impaired memory at the onset of the study. Most, though, had some hearing loss. Six years later, 609 men and women eventually showed signs of mental impairment based on standard tests. Those who had hearing problems earlier in the study were 24 percent more likely to show a mental decline than those who did not.
"On average, researchers believed that people with hearing impairment would take 7.7 years to develop mental impairment, whereas people with normal hearing would take 10.9 years," according to a CBS News report.
"It could also be that if you're constantly having to expend more (mental) energy decoding what you hear, then it comes at a cost,'' said the study's author, Dr. Frank Lin. "Hearing loss doesn't directly contribute to dementia, but leads to cognitive load on the brain."