Photo credit: Anna Shvets

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This interesting essay on Medpagetoday discusses something we have recently covered , the possible effect of hearing loss on developing dementia.

The author is Shannon Halloway, RN, PhD, who does research on lifestyle interventions to prevent dementia. What prompted her to write the essay was her husband developing hearing loss in his late 30s. She doesn’t mention whether he was a rock musician or shooting sports enthusiast or worked in a noisy environment, but that’s really not relevant to her point that treating hearing loss may prevent dementia in later life.

That idea has been around for more than a decade, ever since Frank Lin, MD, PhD, and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University reported a correlation between hearing loss and dementia, with worse hearing loss being correlated with worse dementia. Research is under way to determine if providing hearing aids to older patients with hearing loss actually does prevent dementia or delay its onset, but preliminary evidence continues to indicate that this is likely. I hope Prof. Halloway’s essay, and the research showing that use of hearing aids seems to prevent or delay dementia, will help overcome the stigma of hearing loss. Even in countries where hearing aids are covered by health insurance, their use remains too low. Perhaps the recent FDA approval of over-the-counter hearing aids will also help increase hearing aid usage in the U.S.

Prof. Halloway doesn’t mention prevention of noise-induced hearing loss, so I will.

There are many causes of hearing loss, from congenital syndromes with early or late onset to infections to ototoxic drugs and head trauma, but the most common cause of hearing loss–and the only entirely preventable cause of hearing loss–is excessive noise exposure.

If something sounds loud, it’s too loud, and one’s auditory health is at risk.

Thanks to Arnold Gordon in Connecticut for bring this article to our attention.

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