Loss of Hearing Among the Elderly May Eventually Result in Dementia

By Camille H, Parent Herald February 03, 12:27 pm

Elderly men and women who are suffering from loss of hearing should also be wary of possible signs of dementia, a recent study claims.

Research suggests that this is due to the fact that elderly men and women's loss of hearing also result in a much faster shrinkage of their brain. As people get older, their brains get smaller but the rate of shrinkage speeds up among those who are deaf. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Ageing looked at the ongoing Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Ageing to compare the brains of elderly people with normal hearing and those with impaired hearing.

Dr. Frank Lin, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University schools of medicine and public health, says it is unknown, however, whether these brain structural differences occurred before or after hearing loss. They found that people who suffered from loss of hearing lost more than an additional cubic centimeter of brain tissue each year. Those with impaired hearing also suffered from a significantly higher brain shrinkage in particular regions, specifically the superior, middle, and inferior temporal gyri.

"If you want to address hearing loss well, you want to do it sooner rather than later. If hearing loss is potentially contributing to these differences we're seeing on MRI, you want to treat it before these brain structural challenges take place," said Dr. Lin. He and his colleagues say they plan on eventually examining whether treating loss of hearing earlier than usual can reduce the risk of associated health problems. 

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