Wait, what? Hearing Loss May Cause Dementia

“Early hearing loss could pave the way for dementia”

(Maria Cohut, Medical News Today) Researchers have found that young adults with minor hearing loss display changes in brain activity that are normally only seen in old age.

“Hearing loss, even minor deficits, can take a toll in young people — they’re using cognitive resources that could be preserved until much later in life,” notes lead researcher Yune Lee from Ohio State University.

“Most concerning, this early hearing loss could pave the way for dementia … This isn’t about the ear — it’s about the brain, the cognitive process, and it shouldn’t be happening until people are at least older than 50,” Lee explains.

‘Twice as likely to have dementia’

The study authors explain that, normally, healthy young adults only use the left brain hemisphere when engaged in language comprehension tasks.

As people age, however, they start to engage the right frontal part of the brain too, as they put more effort into processing spoken language.

“But in our study,” says Lee, “young people with mild hearing decline were already experiencing this phenomenon.”

“Their brains already know that the perception of sound is not what it used to be and the right side starts compensating for the left,” he adds.

Lee and team worry that the hearing issues may only worsen, affecting comprehension. And, this can hasten the development of neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia.

“Previous research,” says Lee, “shows that people with mild hearing loss are twice as likely to have dementia. And those with moderate to severe hearing loss have three to five times the risk.”

“We can’t be sure,” he continues, “but we suspect that what happens is you put so much effort into listening you drain your cognitive resources, and that has a negative effect on your thinking and memory and that can eventually lead to dementia.”

Read the full story at Medical News Today. 

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