Good article from Audiology Online on hearing and cognitive decline

#1

The question of does hearing loss cause dementia (and does correcting it prevent it or slow it down) comes up fairly often on the forum. Here’s a good discussion on Audiology Online. https://www.audiologyonline.com/articles/20q-hearing-loss-dementia-research-25355

And for those that want to cut to the chase? We still don’t know. There’s some evidence to suggest it and there are ongoing studies, but it’s still an open question.

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#2

It seems obvious that hearing loss and dementia are both caused by age. I guess the real question is if hearing loss increases the risk of dementia. My thoughts would be that trying to separate these two issues in an aged population would be about as difficult as separating fly do-do from pepper. It would seem more to the point if studies were conducted on those who have lost their hearing at a very young age. Do they as a group develop dementia earlier and at a higher rate than the rest of the population? My quick read of the article didn’t seem to consider that aspect of it.

And my cynical view of it is that being able to say uncorrected hearing loss causes dementia would be a fantastic marketing pitch for hearing aids. Perhaps that is where the real interest lies…

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#3

I think the intermediate variable is ability to socialize. I’d guess for people who lost hearing from birth or an early age who were raised in a deaf community are not at increased risk of cognitive decline. (Those that were raised with the idea of hearing loss being a culture rather than a disability) This is a studiable issue, but it’s not easy or cheap and there is no promised incentive of government money so the incentives are to do poor research to show what you want it to show.

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#4

I also believe it is a matter of a person’s attitude. Someone with a positive attitude always has a better mental health as well as physical health.
I have always been taught to stay positive and never be negative. I see it all the time the ones around this retirement community that are negative are sick most of the time and the one that are positive are healthy and always laughing.

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#5

It can even happen in the younger population like the Medical Student Syndrome where med students believe the are suffering from the disease they are studying about.

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#6

I have an anecdotal story about an office visit to my dentist earlier this week.

I am pretty sure I am still cognitively adept.

After a cleaning and examination, the doctor began to explain a crown procedure that is necessary for one of my rear molars. I have been expecting this outcome as we have been watching that molar for several years.

Due to the cleaning and exam, I had removed my aids so they would not get in the way or fall out of my ears at an inopportune time. The doctor was wearing a surgical mask when concealed much of her face. I was having trouble understanding her explanation about the required procedure.

I explained to the doctor that my hearing was poor and I was having difficulty understanding her explanation. I got the “look”. I am not sure that she didn’t think I was becoming a little impaired. Rather than give me an opportunity to replace my hearing aids, she slowed her speech (without removing her mask) and began talking to me as if I were a child.

The moral of the story, others may perceive us as demented when the problem is poor speech understanding due to a hearing deficit.

Always wear your hearing aids!

Jeff

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#7

This is so true.
The slow talk and dumb look are priceless.

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#8

I find it interesting that there has not been any mention of Type III diabetes, Dr Dale Bredesen (“The End of Alzheimers”) or study of insulin resistance in the brain.

We already know that diabetes affects every cell in the body. So, what if diabetes caused both the death of hair cells in the inner ear AND had adverse effects on the brain? Dr. Bredesen would say that there are multiple causes of dementia and you have to treat them all. As of today, I don’t think there is a gold standard of proof for any theory of dementia. But there are case studies that give us strong suggestions for further explorations.

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#9

“And my cynical view of it is that being able to say uncorrected hearing loss causes dementia would be a fantastic marketing pitch for hearing aids. Perhaps that is where the real interest lies…”

There’s no “would be” to it. When I first started looking for hearing aids, an audiologist determined to sell me $7,000 aids tried to use this to frighten me into the purchase. It didn’t work since $7,000 was quite beyond the range of possible for me. I started on the get-hearing-aids project thinking they’d cost maybe 3 or 4,000, which would be strain enough.

God bless Costco.

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#10

Some discussion also here:

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#11

I’d seen it but had kind of forgotten about it. Reread it. Thoughts: 1) It’s not randomized so it’s entirely possible that the “effect” is a result of the “type” of people with hearing loss who wear hearing aids are less prone to cognitive decline than those who don’t. Also just “eyeballing” the graph of the change in rate of decline–it is not a big effect. I doubt this will ever be sorted out, but to me there are some obvious takeaways from everything I’ve read, including discussions. 1) People are unlikely to change their mind. Some would continue to believe that any suggestion of cognitive decline is a conspiracy of the hearing aid manufacturers and audiologists to promote hearing aid sales no matter what evidence was presented. 2) The “key” to slowing/preventing cognitive decline is remaining engaged in life. If one can manage to do that with poor hearing and no hearing aids, one will likely do ok. If one’s declining hearing leads to social withdrawal and depression, one is likely to do poorly.

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#12

Although there is much still unknown about dementia, I think there is some agreement that the process of decline starts a decade or more before symptoms are noticed. That would suggest to me that if untreated hearing loss is a cause, it would also have to be present for considerable time before the symptoms of dementia became apparent.

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