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Study suggests hearing loss may link to cognitive deficits

January 23, 2013
by Sandra Hoban, Executive Editor
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A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that hearing loss can lead to accelerated cognitive deficits. Hearing specialist Dr. Frank Lin, led the investigation that followed 1,984 older adults (mean age: 77.4 years) who were participants in the ongoing Health ABC Study. All volunteers had normal brain function when the study began in 2001.

Results from a  Modified Mini-Mental State (3MS) exam and Digital Symbol Substitution test indicated that older adults with hearing problems experienced cognitive decline sooner than those with normal hearing. Results from the 3MS exam revealed annual rates of cognitive decline 41 percent higher in older adults with hearing loss than those with normal hearing.

Most people tend to ignore hearing problems, which can cause social isolation and loneliness, and contribute to cognitive decline. In an article in Science Daily, Lin said: “Our results show that hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging, because it may come with some serious long-term consequences to healthy brain functioning.” Lin estimates there are 27 million people over 50 suffering from hearing loss. While hearing aids may alleviate the condition for those who need them, only 15 percent get the devices.

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