Le’Anne McEachern, Au.D.
Doctor of Audiology
Dementia and Age-Related Hearing Loss
By Barbara E Weinstein, PhD City University of New York
Dementia and age related hearing loss are considered public health problems that are costly to the individuals, their families, and to society. The Lancet International Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care recently extended the list of modifiable risk factors for addressing dementia to include hearing loss. (Lancet 2017).
Informed by the data demonstrating the bi-directional link between hearing loss and incident dementia, the commission considers hearing loss to be a mid-life risk factor. Hearing loss may add to the cognitive load of an aging brain or it may lead to social isolation, which is associated with faster cognitive decline and depression. The report underscores the connection between social engagement and physical and mental health. A necessary ingredient for social engagement is the ability to communicate and encode spoken language.
The goals of hearing rehabilitation should be to increase audibility and improve speech understanding in noise, thereby easing the effort involved in communication to maximize socio-environmental interactions and sustain engagement in social and leisure activities.
Hearing aids may serve as a buffer against social and emotional loneliness and depression, thereby improving the patients’ mood, boosting the quality and quantity of their social interactions, and enabling their participation in cognitively-stimulating activities.
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