Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size

Hearing Loss Linked to Mental Decline in Elderly

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 22, 2013 -- Hearing loss and mental decline are two common conditions of aging, and now a new study finds that they may be related.

Older people with hearing deficits were more likely than those with normal hearing to develop problems with memory and thinking over the course of the study.

On average, the study participants with hearing issues had significant mental impairments three years earlier than those without them.

Untreated Hearing Loss Common

About two-thirds of adults over the age of 70 have some degree of hearing loss.

And the number of people with dementia is projected to double over the next two decades as the population ages.

The researchers now hope to study whether hearing aids can slow mental decline in the elderly.

Otologist and epidemiologist Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD, led the study. He says only about 15% of people who need hearing aids get them. Lin is an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“Our findings emphasize just how important it is for physicians to discuss hearing with their patients and to be proactive in addressing any hearing declines over time,” he says.

The investigation included close to 2,000 men and women in their 70s and 80s who took part in an aging and health study that began in the late 1990s.

Hearing was tested in year five of the study, and the men and women underwent a series of tests over the next six years to assess declines in memory and thinking.

The men and women with hearing loss showed evidence of these declines 30% to 40% faster than the people with normal hearing. And those people with more hearing loss had steeper declines in mental function.

The study was published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Social Isolation, Brain Overload May Explain Link

While it did not address how age-related hearing loss may worsen problems with memory or thinking, Lin says there are several theories.

One theory is that the social isolation common among people with untreated hearing loss leads to mental decline. Previous research has identified loneliness as a risk factor for such decline, he says.

Today on WebMD

Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
fast healthy snack ideas
how healthy is your mouth
dog on couch
doctor holding syringe
champagne toast
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Man feeding woman
two senior women laughing