The worse the hearing loss, the worse the risk for Alzheimer's as well. For every additional loss of 10 decibels of hearing capacity, Alzheimer's risk appeared to go up by 20 percent, the researchers said.
The authors suggested that if further studies confirm the findings, this could lead to the development of new strategies to try to reduce dementia risk. For example, the finding theoretically suggests that efforts to correct hearing loss by means of hearing aids and surgery could potentially cut back on dementia risk.
"But as a scientist I cannot yet say that curing hearing loss will prevent dementia," Ferrucci said. "We have now opened a window on this association. But there is still a lot of work to be done before we can be sure there is actually a causal relationship."
Dr. Richard B. Lipton, vice chair of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, called the new study an "interesting" exploration that is predicated on "the widespread notion that chronological age may not be the best measure of biological age."
"Some people have suggested that the most powerful risk factor that we know of for Alzheimer's is age itself," he noted. "The older you are the more likely you are to develop the disease. And we know that risk doubles every five years after the age of 65," Lipton added.
"But some 90-year-olds are in nursing homes, while others are on the golf course. So here we have the notion that hearing loss may be a kind of biological, rather than chronological, measure of aging. In other words, an indication that someone is not actually aging all that well," he said.
"Another idea is that hearing loss might result from damage to nerve cells," Lipton added. "That means damage to the hearing organ and inner ear structure called the cochlea, and the hair cells that pick up the pattern of vibration that the sound produces in the ear. And if there's damage to the neurons that mediate hearing, that may be a
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