Hearing Loss Can Lead to Dementia

Hearing loss, age, family history and genetic predisposition can lead to dementia

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Scientists have discussed various ideas concerning possible risk factors for developing Alzheimer's including low involvement in leisure activities and social interactions, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes mellitus and hypertension.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, MD found that older adults with hearing loss may have another risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease. The good news? Hearing loss may be preventable.

"Older adults should prevent hearing loss as much as is in their control."

The study's authors theorize four possible reasons for the relationship between hearing loss and Alzheimer's disease. Dementia may be overdiagnosed in those with hearing loss; Dementia may be overdiagnosed as hearing loss; The two conditions may share an underlying neuropathologic process; and Hearing loss may be partially the cause of dementia

Frank R. Lin, M.D., Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, and colleagues studied 639 individuals age 36 to 90 without dementia. Participants initially were evaluated using cognitive and hearing tests between 1990 and 1994. There was a midway point follow-up test 11.9 years after the initial testing.

In the participants over 60, 36 percent of the risk of dementia was linked to hearing loss. Lin is encouraging research into the mechanism linking hearing loss with dementia as new rehabilitation strategies are a must.

In Depth

  • During a median (midpoint) follow-up of 11.9 years, 58 individuals were diagnosed with dementia, including 37 who had Alzheimer's disease
  • 639 total participants were evaluated between 1990 and 1994
  • They were followed through May 2008 and tested for dementia and Alzheimer's disease
  • 125 had mild hearing loss (25 to 40 decibels)
  • 53 had moderate hearing loss (41 to 70 decibels)
  • 6 had severe hearing loss (more than 70 decibels)
  • There was no association between self-reported use of hearing aids and a reduction in dementia or Alzheimer's disease risk
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Review Date: 
April 21, 2011
Last Updated:
April 27, 2011