About 20 percent of people living in Scottsdale are diagnosed with hearing loss. The impact on their daily lives is significant: communication is difficult, and many experience anxiety, stress and fatigue. But those are merely the tip of the iceberg. Hearing loss has been linked to many physical, social and psychological conditions. One of the most serious is cognitive decline.
Why Hearing Loss Causes Cognitive Decline
48 million people throughout the United States experience hearing loss to some degree. It is ranked as the third most common physical health condition, behind cardiovascular disease and arthritis. In fact, more people are diagnosed with hearing loss than diabetes or cancer. And the number will continue to grow due to an aging population. This means an increasing number of people in Scottsdale are at risk for developing a serious side effect such as cognitive decline.
A study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital shows a positive correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. This is only the latest in a series of studies in recent years that have found the same results and serves to illustrate the importance of seeking treatment for hearing loss as soon as possible.
The study took place over eight years and tracked more than 10,000 men aged 62 and older. Based on subjective cognitive function (SCF) scores to answers on a six-item questionnaire, researchers found conclusive evidence of a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Specifically, test subjects experienced the following:
- Rates of cognitive decline were 30 percent higher in men with mild hearing loss
- Individuals with moderate hearing loss had cognitive decline rates 42 percent higher
- Those with severe hearing loss who were not treating their condition with hearing aids experienced 54 percent higher cognitive decline rates
The study has come under some scrutiny based on the fact that the test population was limited to older white males, results were self-reported and the cognitive function scoring was subjective in nature. Better results would be achieved, they concede, by including a more diverse group of participants. Indeed, the group plans to do further testing involving women and younger patients in order to measure the correlation between self-reported hearing loss, changes in audiometric hearing thresholds and cognitive changes.
The Good News: Hearing Aids Can Help
Fortunately, a growing body of evidence indicates that hearing aids can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline in individuals with hearing loss. Patients with severe hearing loss who wore hearing aids experienced lower rates of cognitive decline than those who did not treat their hearing loss. While the numbers weren’t statistically significant (17 percentage points), they still point to the efficacy of hearing aids in helping to at least slow down the onset of cognitive impairment.
With dementia a significant health threat to the older population, anybody with signs of hearing loss in Scottsdale should schedule an appointment with an Arizona hearing professional as soon as possible. Early detection is key!