Are hearing loss and dementia connected?

The connection between hearing loss and dementia.

For as long as we can remember, hearing loss was a troublesome but inconsequential part of growing older. Then in 2013, an otologist and epidemiologist named Frank Lin, working at John Hopkins University in the United States performed a ground-breaking study. He discovered that despite then-current medical beliefs, there was a direct correlation between hearing loss and a decline in our brain’s ability to function correctly.

Working from lessons gained in this initial study, Lin and other well-regarded researchers delved deeper into the subject. They not only established a relationship between cognitive decline rates and the severity of hearing loss. They also determined that with the use of hearing aids, mental decline and the onset of dementia would slow down, and its severity reduced.

Saying that these findings sent shock waves through the medical community would be a lie. It did garner attention from the press. It established that with a population ever-increasing in average age, these findings could be of importance to a portion of their patrons. Thankfully, as this subject has gained more notoriety, much more in-depth research has begun and being funded. And more significant insights are now available.

The latest news on this front is that not only can the use of hearing aids and other corrective hearing strategies be used to slow the process of mental decline. They can also reverse it in one landmark study performed at the Publique-Hopitaux de Paris France by Isabelle Mosnier using nearly 100 patients with severe hearing loss in at least one ear.

After testing their cognitive abilities, they received cochlear implants followed by twice-weekly auditory rehabilitation for the duration of the study. The vast majority (8/10) of those who began with the worse cognitive scores showed a marked improvement in both memory function and problem-solving abilities.

With this knowledge, those of us who work within the hearing industry daily got very excited. Once all the numbers were known, the following result came to light. 

 

  • Mental improvements from hearing rehabilitation were higher than those for any of the pharmaceutical treatments currently on the market.

 

We can safely say that with the recent discoveries made, time is drawing near when the use of hearing aids and other audio rehabilitation methods will significantly lower the risk of and the severity of, and possibly even help in the recovery from dementia.