A review of recent studies published in The New York Times, suggests that hearing loss may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, with some associations beginning at low levels of impairment.

The article cites a 2011 longitudinal study by Frank Lin and colleagues that tested the hearing of 639 older adults without dementia, tracking them for an average of about 12 years. During that time, 58 developed Alzheimer’s or another cognitive impairment, according to the Times. Lin was quoted as saying the relationship between hearing loss and impairment was “very, very linear,” which means the greater the loss, the greater the risk of impairment.

In 2017, The Lancet Commissions found that hearing loss was a modifiable risk factor for about 9% of all dementia diagnoses.

Some theories indicate that, as a result of difficulty hearing or background noise, the ear may send signals to regions in the front cortex of the brain involved in reasoning and decision making, rather than regions for speech comprehension. This is thought to “overload” the region, making it harder for the listener to comprehend what is being said. Another theory says that hearing loss may cause an atrophy of brain tissue in auditory regions from lack of use and/or the tendency of people to socialize less if they have trouble hearing.

Lin is quoted as saying, “There’s every reason to think if you treat hearing loss, that those interventions could directly modify those pathways.”

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

Source: NY Times