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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Hearing Loss May Be Linked to Alzheimer’s

Study Shows Risk of Dementia May Increase as Hearing Loss Gets Worse

Investigating the Hearing Loss-Dementia Link

“A number of mechanisms may be theoretically implicated in the observed association between hearing loss and incident dementia,” the researchers write.

It’s possible, they write, that dementia may be overdiagnosed in people with hearing loss, or that those with cognitive impairment may be overdiagnosed with hearing loss.

The conditions may share a common, underlying cause. The researchers write that hearing loss may be “causally related to dementia, possibly through exhaustion of cognitive reserve, social isolation” or other factors.

If their findings are confirmed in further research, their study “could have substantial implications for individuals and public health,” the researchers write.

“Hearing loss in older adults may be preventable and can be addressed with current technology” such as digital hearing aids and cochlear implants, the researchers say. Also, other rehabilitative interventions might be developed that would focus on “optimizing social and environmental conditions for hearing,” the researchers write.

“With the increasing number of people with hearing loss, research into the mechanistic pathways linking hearing loss with dementia and the potential of rehabilitative strategies to moderate this association are critically needed,” the researchers write.

They say hearing loss is associated with dementia, but whether it is a marker for early-stage dementia or a risk factor for dementia that could be modified remains to be determined.

The study is published in the February 2011 edition of Archives of Neurology.

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