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Healthy hearing and dementia

Here’s the statistics about dementia in Australia today:

“In 2010, the total direct health and aged care system expenditure on people with dementia was at least $4.9 billion. By 2060, spending on dementia is projected to reach $83 billion dollars.” (1)

The number of cases of dementia are increasing because we are living longer.  As we learn more about this horrible disease, more is being understood about what steps we can take to reduce our risk of developing dementia.

Multiple studies indicate hearing loss can be linked to the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. (2)

Leading researchers in this area have concluded there is little doubt that hearing loss is a factor in loss of mental status in older adults. Studies have also shown that the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the likelihood of developing a cognitive disorder, and the steeper the decline in mental function. However, even subjects with mild hearing loss were found more likely to experience cognitive decline.
“Declines in hearing abilities may accelerate grey matter atrophy and increase the listening effort necessary to comprehend speech…Hearing aids may not only improve hearing but preserve the brain.” (2)

Early diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss slows the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  In the past, people with hearing loss on average wait seven years from when they are diagnosed to seek treatment.  The is very concerning as we know that the sooner hearing loss is detected and treatment begins, the more hearing ability can be preserved.

The take home message here is DON’T WAIT to have a hearing test!  Once a person reaches 60 years of age, a hearing test should be included as part of an annual health check-up.  If a hearing loss is found, start using hearing aids.  Not only will your ability to hear and quality of life improve, but you could be reducing you risk of developing dementia.

  1. Alzheimer’s Australia. Statistics 

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hearing Loss Accelerates Brain Function Decline in Older Adults. 2013 

  3. University of Pennsylvania – Perelman School of Medicine, Jonathan Peele, PhD. 2011