An increasing amount of research on hearing loss draws links between it and an elevated risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. This is critical when it comes to dealing with people who refuse a hearing aid despite hearing loss because they fail to recognize that they are doing more than just causing damage to their ears.
The risk of dementia
Less than a decade ago, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore initiated a study on older adults, some of whom had some hearing loss, and followed them for a period of 15 years. Results at the end of that study showed a strong association between signs of dementia and loss of hearing, with those suffering from the severest hearing loss at the greatest risk of getting dementia.
Similar research published in recent years confirms those findings, as experts believe hearing loss contributes to mental decline on account of the cognitive load on the brain. As one struggles to hear, one is compelled to work harder to understand sounds, taking away resources for other critical brain functions. Some neurologists also believe that hearing impairment may trigger structural changes in the brain itself.
How hearing loss treatment helps
Scientists are still examining whether hearing loss treatment can help prevent dementia or, at the very least, slow its advance. There are definitive studies underway, and some researchers are examining other strategies such as music lessons that may reinforce the brain's ability to process sound. These studies are of enormous importance given that approximately one-quarter of people over 50 have some degree of hearing loss and need hearing loss treatment.
A lot of hearing loss is gradual, which is why people don't get a hearing test as often as they should. These tests are the best way to find out more about what hearing loss treatment can work though, and should be administered by qualified professionals.