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Potential Cognitive Decline From Hearing Loss Could Be Avoided
By Nicole Wasel, Au.D.

People who choose to seek treatment for hearing loss will be happy to know that they have also reduced their risk of serious cognitive disease. According to recent research by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, depending upon the severity, people with hearing loss may face a 36% increase in the risk of dementia and other cognitive diseases. These findings appear to reinforce the results of another recent study of 2,000 adults in which individuals with mild to moderately severe hearing loss were found to be 24% more likely than those with normal hearing to see their cognitive function diminish early. As audiologists, we are concerned about the possibility that the hearing loss we are treating, in some instances, might be a leading indicator for other health concerns. We know that some individuals become increasingly isolated when hearing loss becomes a problem, and that's another risk factor involved with dementia and other cognitive diseases. The great part about this discovery is that more people are getting their hearing checked at younger ages and finding out that the solutions for hearing loss are simpler than they may have first thought, and that actions can be taken that yield positive results.

According to the Johns Hopkins study, those with a hearing loss greater than 25 decibels are most at risk. The potential for cognitive decline increases with greater levels of hearing loss. At our practice, we encourage anyone, even young adults, to have a baseline hearing exam, if they've noticed any decline in their hearing.

What we're seeing as the science of hearing loss continues to expand is a leap in the number of people who are excited about the possibility of better hearing health. So far the evidence seems to suggest that better hearing helps keep the brain sharp, and as more people seek better-hearing solutions, we end up with a mentally sharper, healthier population as a whole.

Nicole Wasel, Doctor of Audiology, Washington Ear, Nose and Throat, can be reached at (724) 225-8995 or nwasel@washingtonent.net, or visit www.washingtonent.net.

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