Startling research in America indicates a cross-over relationship between hearing impairment and dementia.
The study found that people who are hard of hearing have increased odds of developing dementia as they grow older.
There is no suggestion that having a hearing loss actually causes the syndrome itself but it is hoped if more people use hearing aids the number of people getting dementia will decline.
Presently, more than one in 10 Americans over the age of 70 has some form of dementia.
Dementia is a mental syndrome that is associated with an on-going decline of the brain and its abilities. These include memory, thinking, language, understanding and judgement.
Dr. Frank R. Lin, an ear surgeon at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, whose findings appear in the Archives of Neurology, said: “There are some studies showing that if you can delay dementia onset by just one year, you would decrease the prevalence of dementia by more than 10% in 2050.”
The research, which involved more than 600 men and women, found that 9% of the participants developed some type of dementia during the study, most commonly Alzheimer’s disease. And the worse the hearing was, the greater the risk.
Compared with people with normal hearing, those with mild hearing loss had twice the chance of fostering dementia.
The risk increased three-fold for those with moderate hearing loss and five-fold for severe impairment.
It doesn’t mean you will develop dementia if your hearing is impaired but your risk is increased. According to the National Institutes of Health, 17% of U.S. adults have some degree of hearing loss. Treating hearing loss could possibly delay the onset of dementia.