A recent “hot topic” in hearing research is the link between hearing ability and cognition. “Cognition” refers to the brain’s ability to gather information, store it, make sense of it and solve problems. The National Institute of Aging sponsored research that found adults with hearing loss were more likely to have dementia and other signs of cognitive decline. Adults with severe losses were found to be at even greater risk, including risk of dementia. Older patients with hearing loss are at least 30% more likely to report memory problems.
The link is not surprising. As we go through daily life, we use all our senses to take in information. Hearing is of primary importance in communication. We know adults with hearing loss risk greater isolation and lack of involvement. Science has found that brains that are stimulated are more likely to be healthy. Poor hearing can also cause the brain to process and store information incorrectly. With less information, brain cells can even perform more poorly.
What can be done? Awareness is the first step towards ear and brain health. If a loved one appears to be lacking hearing, have both the ears and cognitive status checked. There are fine screening tools available to identify patients who need deeper testing. The cognitive screening can even be performed at the time of a hearing evaluation. After evaluation, your provider can make recommendations to best help the patient.
If hearing loss is present, prompt treatment, including appropriate hearing instruments is necessary. Further testing on cognitive ability may be ordered. Never wait if hearing loss OR cognitive decline is suspected. As always, we wish to keep you on a clear path to good hearing and ear health.