Yes, hearing loss is associated with several diseases among them are dementia, cognitive dysfunction, diabetes and heart disease. We now know there are more older adults with dementia who have hearing loss then there are older adults in general with hearing loss.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and there is a link between Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss. Studies show that for every 10 decibels (a measurement of volume) of hearing loss there is a 20% increase in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Another studies looking at cognitive function and hearing loss demonstrated adults with a mild to moderate hearing loss used so much energy to hear, they were unable to recall a short list of words. Other cognitive abilities affected include learning new tasks, reduced alertness, irritability, anger and fatigue. Untreated hearing loss can appear as if someone is having memory problems when it is a hearing problem. Further, left untreated, hearing loss can result in permanent changes in the way the brain works.
On a positive note, when treated with hearing aids and listening training, symptoms such as depression, anxiety, cognitive decline and disorientation can be reduced. Basically it is a case of use it or lose it. Unfortunately, studies also show that people with Alzheimer’s who have hearing loss, they are less likely to receive hearing help.
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