Navigation Links
Hearing Loss May Hasten Mental Decline
Date:1/22/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors who have trouble hearing may see their thinking skills slip away faster than others do, new research suggests.

The study of older U.S. adults found that those with hearing problems were 24 percent more likely to develop mental impairment over six years.

The Johns Hopkins researchers don't know for sure whether hearing loss directly causes mental decline in some cases -- or whether using hearing aids might help. But they are planning to study that possibility.

"At this point, the particular neural mechanisms -- that is, the 'why' and 'how' -- that link hearing loss to dementia are unclear," said Daniel Polley, of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

What is clear is that older adults should take hearing problems seriously, noted Polley, who was not involved with the study.

"If there is a takeaway to this, it would be to encourage folks to have their hearing tested by a health professional," Polley said.

The findings, which appear in the Jan. 21 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, are based on 1,984 adults in their 70s and 80s who showed no signs of impaired memory or thinking at the study's start. But the majority -- 1,162 in all -- did show some hearing loss.

Over the next six years, 609 men and women developed new signs of mental impairment -- based on a standard test of memory, concentration and language skills. And that risk was 24 percent higher among people who had hearing problems.

The researchers estimate that it would take a hearing-impaired older adult just under eight years, on average, to develop mental impairment, versus 11 years for their peers with normal hearing.

None of that proves cause-and-effect. However, the researchers did account for a number of factors that might have explained the link, such as people's education levels, smoking habits and health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and a history of stroke.

There are reasons to believe that hearing loss could directly contribute to declines in brain function, said lead researcher Dr. Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

One is the fact that hearing loss can cause older adults to withdraw socially. When it becomes hard to hear what other people are saying, you might avoid going out or feel cut off from those around you, he noted.

"If you can't hear the person across from you at the dinner table, you won't be engaged in the conversation," Lin said.

That matters because a number of past studies have linked such social isolation and "loneliness" to an increased risk of dementia.

Another possibility, Lin said, is that hearing loss forces the brain to devote extra resources to processing the "garbled" signals it's getting from the ears.

"If you're redirecting brain resources to help with hearing," Lin explained, "that probably comes at the expense of something else -- like working memory."

There are a number of ways to help manage hearing loss, including hearing aids and assistive devices such as telephone amplifiers.

The "biggest question" now, according to Lin, is whether treating hearing loss can slow declines in brain function. He and his colleagues are planning a study to look at that question.

Hearing loss is common, affecting up to two-thirds of adults older than 70. But the fact that it's common doesn't mean it's harmless, both Lin and Polley pointed out.

"Hearing loss is more than an inconvenience or a source of embarrassment," Polley said. "Hearing represents a critical portal to conversation, a behavior that connects humans to one another socially and upon which our mental health greatly depends."

Doctors do not routinely screen older adults for hearing loss, so it's up to people to notice symptoms. Some red flags include having trouble hearing when there is background noise or when more than one person is speaking; problems hearing over the phone; and having to habitually ask people to repeat themselves.

But hearing loss also creeps up on people "slowly and insidiously," Lin said. So it might not be you who notices it, but the people around you.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Lin is a consultant to Pfizer, which is developing a potential drug for age-related hearing loss, and has served as an unpaid speaker for Cochlear Europe, which makes cochlear implants to treat severe hearing loss.

More information

Learn more about hearing loss from the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

SOURCES: Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore; Daniel Polley, Ph.D., assistant professor, otology and laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Jan. 21, 2013, JAMA Internal Medicine


'/>"/>
Copyright©2012 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Grant awarded to help improve problem-solving skills for deaf and hard-of-hearing students
2. Cone beam CT proves better for visualizing some causes of hearing loss at half the radiation dose
3. ASTRO chairman to testify at CARE Act hearing
4. C-Section Babies May Be More Likely to Fail First Hearing Test
5. Children exposed to HIV in the womb at increased risk for hearing loss
6. HIV Exposure Before Birth May Raise Kids Risk of Hearing Loss
7. New screening test to help people with hearing loss in China
8. Suffering of Thousands Prompts FDA Hearing about Hip Implants
9. Not Enough Data to Advise Routine Hearing Screens for Older People: Experts
10. Rewired visual input to sound-processing part of the brain leads to compromised hearing
11. Report: Strategies to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus in soldiers
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Hearing Loss May Hasten Mental Decline
(Date:2/8/2016)... ... February 08, 2016 , ... Delta Dental of California and its ... cancer. , Gary D. Radine, who recently retired as president and CEO of Delta ... 2015 CEO of the Year , helped lead the effort to raise funds ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... ... February 08, 2016 , ... Eating ... a significant number of women and men with eating disorders report a history ... best predicts the development of an eating disorder. , At the 2016 ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... ... February 08, 2016 , ... GrassrootsHealth published data from ... type 2 diabetes in the GrassrootsHealth cohort with substantially higher vitamin D levels ... in public health,” states Carole Baggerly, Director of GrassrootsHealth, “the safety and ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... ... February 08, 2016 , ... Joshua Rosenthal, PhD, Chief Scientific ... can use newly released government data on populations and physicians to better calculate ... capture the value they create to succeed in new economic models for value ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... , ... February 08, 2016 , ... ... only four states in the U.S. require dental technicians to be certified or ... the dental industry, NADL created the “What’s In Your Mouth?” campaign to inform ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/9/2016)... Feb. 9, 2016 The global prefilled syringes ... it is expected to grow with a CAGR of ... prefilled syringes segment dominated the global prefilled syringes market, ... --> The global market of prefilled ... to increasing geriatric population, increasing demand for vaccines, increasing ...
(Date:2/9/2016)...  Increasingly, health care professionals are enhancing patient care ... technology. With the Vios Monitoring System from Vios Medical, ... detect problems before they become serious by continuously tracking ... the United States . ... --> The Vios Monitoring System connects patient-worn ...
(Date:2/9/2016)... KONG , Feb. 9, 2016 Athenex, Inc. ... Athenex as Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Business Development ... MSc, MBA has joined as Senior Director and Deputy Head of Clinical ... . Simon Pedder stated, "Athenex has ... for a while. Coupled together with their unique business model ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: