A new study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery suggests that mild hearing loss may be associated with mental decline in seniors, according to a summary of the findings in Reuters.
Using a more sensitive threshold—15 dB versus 25 dB, the current standard for hearing loss—researchers found some of the seniors had trouble hearing. According to the article, these people also had “clinically meaningful” cognitive decline. The study looked at data from 6,451 participants in the Hispanic Community Health Study (HCHS) and the National Health and Nutrition Study (NHANES).

“People with worse hearing use so much more brainpower to decode the words that are said, they don’t get to process the meaning of what was said, which is the intellectually stimulating part,” Dr Justin Golub, an assistant professor in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, was quoted as saying by Reuters. 

“People who had difficulty hearing a whisper (but technically still had normal hearing), scored 6 points worse on a test of speed and attention than people who had absolutely perfect hearing,” said Golub. “This took into account other factors, such as age. Scientists say that the 6-point change could make a meaningful difference in day-to-day function.”

In order to preserve mental sharpness, Golub recommends people with mild hearing loss be fitted with hearing aids right away.

To read the article in its entirety, please click here. 

Original Papers: Golub JS, Brickman AM, Ciarleglio AJ, Schupf N, Luchsinger JA. Association of subclinical hearing loss with cognitive performance. JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. 2019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaoto.2019.3375.

Powell DS, Deal JA, Goman AM. Reconsidering individuals with normal hearing. JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. 2019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaoto.2019.3372.

Source: Reuters, JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery