Get the Scoop as We Celebrate Better Hearing & Speech Month
If asked about the many ways better hearing enhances your life, what comes to mind? For some, it’s the sounds of nature, game night with family and friends, an epic live concert, a critical project at work, or something as simple yet enjoyable as settling in for a favorite TV show.
But did you know improved hearing might be a key to better brain health too? A growing body of research ties hearing loss to cognitive-decline problems such as dementia. So for Better Hearing & Speech Month, we’re taking a closer look at the issue and the importance of hearing help.
Just this year, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led study announced findings that older adults with more severe forms of hearing loss have a significantly higher risk of dementia. The investigation uncovered a 61% greater prevalence of dementia over those with normal hearing.
Both dementia and hearing loss continue to rise in the global population. An estimated 55 million people live with dementia, per the World Health Organization, which predicts the rate will reach 139 million in 2025. Hearing loss, estimated at over 1.5 billion children and adults worldwide, could climb to over 2.5 billion people by 2050.
Studies have long linked hearing loss and other conditions such as cognitive decline in older adults, with data showing evidence of:
- Accelerated brain shrinkage
- Five-fold risk of dementia
- Earlier onset of decline
- And other changes
The present study, however, stands apart from some other investigations by having relied not only on in-clinic data but also home-based information — including testing and interviews — comprising a more nationally representative population across a 65-plus age group.
Like an increasing number of studies, the findings showed potential benefits of better hearing in curbing the dementia threat. According to the investigators, hearing aid use was associated with a 32% lower prevalence of dementia among those with moderate or severe hearing loss.
It’s not quite conclusive that hearing aids prevent or reverse dementia — future research will continue to probe the issue. But it looks promising. In an online report, the investigation’s lead author stated, “This study refines what we’ve observed about the link between hearing loss and dementia and builds support for public health action to improve hearing care access.”
What can you do? Staying sharp and engaged is easier than you think and starts with regular hearing screenings. Whether your hearing level seems to have changed or it’s simply been a while since your last checkup, book an evaluation today. Tracking your hearing health helps catch any potential problems early and could go a long way toward supporting your brain and cognitive wellness.