Harvard Health Letter

Hearing loss may be related to cognitive decline

Older adults with hearing loss may be at risk for cognitive problems, according to a study published online Jan. 21, 2013, in JAMA Internal Medicine. People with hearing loss had a 24% increased risk for cognitive impairment compared with people who had normal hearing. That translates to a faster decline in mental skills, say researchers, by as much as 30% to 40% when hearing declines to 25 decibels. The authors conclude that more research is needed to determine why this occurs and whether hearing loss treatment would have an impact on the association with cognitive impairment. Prior research suggests that the communication problems that result from hearing loss lead to social isolation. Social isolation is a risk factor for dementia.

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