Difficulty hearing in a noisy space linked to dementia

Photo credit: Helena Lopes

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

There has been more focus on the importance of hearing lately as evidenced by how much easier it is to get hearing aids. Those of us who have written about sound and noise for many years have long understood the importance of hearing, and we do not take our hearing for granted. Clare Watson, writing for ScienceAlert, tells readers to notice changes in their hearing because such changes may “be linked to developing dementia at an older age.”

The study cited in Watson’s article looked at 80,000 adults over the age of 60 and found that those who had difficulty hearing speech in noisy environments had “a greater risk of dementia.” A hearing problem may not be a symptom of dementia but a risk factor as well.

Watson goes on to report that hearing loss not attended to when first noted increases one’s risk to develop dementia. The study, in which subjects were followed for 11 years, found that those with worse hearing “had almost double the risk of developing dementia” when compared to subjects with good hearing. Interestingly, many of the subjects in this study with a hearing loss did not notice their hearing deficit when asked.

The researchers who undertook the study were confident of the link between hearing loss and dementia and were aware of other studies that similarly reported such a link. But they added that they believe their study was the first to “investigate dementia risk and people’s hearing ability in noisy environments.”

It was good to see that this article stressed the importance of protecting our ears against hearing damage. Such protection can “potentially mitigate the potential risk factor of dementia.”

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