Two prevalent health conditions among older adults are quietly becoming a global epidemic – hearing loss and dementia. In fact, these seemingly unrelated issues are closely linked, with untreated hearing loss contributing to cognitive decline.

The link between hearing loss and dementia has recently become of great interest to ear specialists. Research shows that individuals experiencing moderate to severe hearing impairment face an increased risk of developing dementia over time. In a 2020 report by the Lancet Commission, hearing loss was among the top modifiable risk factors for dementia, and wearing hearing aids was found to reduce the excess risk. 

This groundbreaking research offers ear specialists a unique opportunity to provide patients with a holistic approach to hearing health. Proactively addressing hearing loss can reduce the risk of dementia in at-risk patients. Early identification and intervention are vital in preventing further hearing deterioration and may play a role in mitigating the risk of cognitive decline.

Hearing impairment can result in social isolation, reduced cognitive stimulation, and even changes in brain structure over time. The extra cognitive load of straining to hear can affect an individual’s mental capacity, potentially accelerating cognitive decline.

A more recent Lancet study further examined the association between hearing loss and dementia by investigating whether hearing intervention could reduce cognitive decline in healthy adults with hearing loss. The findings suggest that intervention using hearing aids may reduce cognitive change over three years in populations of older adults at increased risk for cognitive decline.

This research highlights the importance of regular hearing check-ups for individuals of all ages, particularly those experiencing a sense of hearing loss. Early detection and intervention for people with hearing impairment can significantly enhance those individuals’ quality of life, preventing feelings of isolation and maintaining cognitive engagement.

Hearing technology is more advanced today than ever before, and there are a wide variety of hearing aid and implant options for every unique lifestyle. There has never been a better time to do something about your hearing loss