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Utah: 435-688-8991 | Nevada: 702-896-0031
Utah: 435-688-8991 Nevada: 702-896-0031

Hearing Loss and Dementia

In the last few years, there has been significant research dedicated to evaluating a possible link between hearing loss and dementia. The bulk of this research comes from Dr. Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Lin works at Johns Hopkins University and has published several articles on the subject and continues to be the leading researcher in this field.

The research has been groundbreaking. Dr. Lin has shown that individuals with hearing loss are much more likely to experience cognitive decline than their age-matched peers. In fact, individuals with moderate hearing loss are four times more likely to develop dementia than individuals their same age without hearing loss. The mechanisms that underlie this cognitive decline appear to be actual atrophy of brain matter. A person with hearing loss experiences deterioration of the auditory centers of the brain in the temporal lobe. When these auditory centers deteriorate, other areas of the brain responsible for cognitive function and memory are negatively impacted. Over time, the brain literally shrinks, cognitive decline occurs, and dementia becomes more likely.

What can we do to prevent, or at least slow down, this process? Dr. Lin and his research team are currently evaluating this very question. Although their studies are not complete, it is hypothesized that treating the underlying hearing loss with hearing aids may be the best answer. It is thought that early treatment of hearing loss and consistent usage of hearing aids prevents (or at least slows down) the atrophy of the auditory centers of the brain. This, in turn, prevents the other areas of the brain – the areas responsible for cognition – from deteriorating.

At our clinic, we strongly recommend early treatment of hearing loss. Wearing hearing aids when a hearing loss is first diagnosed is encouraged. Just as important is consistent usage. Wearing the hearing aids for at least 10 hours per day is recommended for all of our patients. Our goal is not only to improve the hearing and communication abilities of our patients but to preserve cognitive brain function as well.