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Connection between Hearing Loss and Dementia

For people with hearing loss, using a hearing aid is associated with a reduced risk of three common health problems of aging — dementia, depression and falls — according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.The study found that people who received hearing aids in the three years after being diagnosed with hearing loss had lower rates of dementia, depression and falls than those who didn’t get the devices.  The researchers looked at the study subjects’ insurance claims for three years after their hearing loss diagnosis. They did this to determine which people with hearing loss had been prescribed a hearing aid, which had not, and which study subjects in both groups were later diagnosed with dementia, depression or a ­fall-related injury. Then they compared the difference between the hearing aid group and the non-hearing-aid group.  

Scientists don’t have definitive answers about the effects of hearing loss on brain health. One theory, Deal said, is that when your hearing is damaged, the brain must expend more effort to decode the sound signals it takes in, possibly at the expense of other brain functions.  Another hypothesis is that hearing loss changes the physical structure of the brain in a way that could harm memory — and some evidence from brain imaging studies supports this theory.  Hearing loss can also increase a person’s feeling of social isolation, because the condition makes it harder to communicate. And social isolation is linked to a number of health problems, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s.  If you notice you’re having difficulty hearing — frequently turning the television up, asking people to repeat themselves or missing parts of in-person or over-the-phone conversations — call for a hearing test.

Source:  Copyright 2019, Consumer Reports Inc.