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Middle-Aged Individuals with Hearing Loss at Risk for Dementia

Celebrating 35 years of Caring for Your Hearing

Meredy Hase tests a child, 1987  Kupperman and Hase work to license audiologists in Wisconsin, 1989

 

Hearing Loss UNDER Age 65

We used to think of hearing loss as something that only happened to our grandparents' generation. But you'd be surprised at how many people your age, and even younger, have a hearing problem.
According to a study recently published by the Better Hearing Institute, two-thirds of Americans with hearing loss are under the age of 65 and still in the work force. That includes one of every six "Baby Boomers" (ages 41 to 59) and one of every 14 "Generation X'ers" (age 29-40).

According to Meredy Hase, Doctor of Audiology, "Hearing loss is by no means an 'old person's disease' any longer. Each day, we see people of all ages come into our offices concerned they may have a hearing problem.

"There's even solid evidence to support the fact that for working Americans, hearing loss impacts their ability to make a living, up to $12,000 in lost income per year." (See related article)
Dr. Hase urges anyone who thinks they, or a loved one, may have a hearing loss to contact The Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services without delay.

Auditory Deprivation

Auditory Deprivation refers to the fact that even though we "hear" with our ears, it's our brain that's the true organ of hearing.

When hearing loss is left untreated, the brain's ability to distinguish various sounds becomes less and less. Try to think of Auditory Deprivation as similar, in a sense, to muscles that atrophy when not used over a long period of time.

The reason Auditory Deprivation is important is that we have ample evidence proving how long people will wait before seeking help for a suspected hearing loss. Up to ten years, by some estimates.

In other words, the longer you wait to get help for your hearing loss, the less even the most advanced hearing instruments will be able to help you hear better. That's one more reason physicians recommend annual hearing checks as part of an overall health assessment.
The Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services can perform hearing screenings that take only a few minutes. Concerned individuals are urged to contact them at the first signs of hearing loss, such as an inability to understand conversations in a crowded room or having to turn up the TV volume in order to hear.

Hearing & Income Loss

After years of research, there is new evidence that links hearing loss and loss of income. A study released by the Better Hearing Institute in Alexandria, VA, proves that untreated hearing loss may impact household income by as much as $12,000 per year.

The study also shows that hearing loss, which affects more than 28 million Americans, two thirds of whom are still in the work force, results in an annual loss of more than $100 billion in wages and worker productivity. The good news is people who find help for their hearing loss can regain up to 50% of that lost income.

According to Meredy Hase, Doctor of Audiology, "One of the misconceptions about hearing loss is that it's 'an old person's ailment'. But we know that hearing loss crosses all income lines and impacts people of all ages".

The new "Open Ear" Digital hearing instruments are especially designed to help Baby Boomers feel more comfortable about wearing hearing instruments.

Anyone interested in receiving a FREE Demonstration of Open Fit hearing technology are urged to contact the Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services.

Hearing Loss & the Family

For years, both researchers and hearing healthcare professionals have known much about the causes of hearing loss and how it affects the person who suffers from it.

But not until recently has attention been paid as to the devastating effects hearing loss has on family members and friends as well. This past year alone, several organizations have weighed in with their findings on this often overlooked medical problem that by current estimates, affects the lives and families of more than 30 million Americans.

For example, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a government agency whose task it is to research the lives of older Americans, released a study that confirms how often a person with hearing loss begins to feel isolated, eventually withdrawing from normal everyday activities and even from family and friends.

None of this is news, however, to Dr. Meredy Hase,  who says, "I realized just how much hearing loss also affected family members when we''d spend so much time counseling them when we''d fit their loved one with hearing instruments".

The benefits of better hearing were the subject of an NBC report that aired on an installment of the NBC Nightly News. In that report, the testimonials of several patients and their families provided evidence of how lives can be changed for the good, once the decision has been made to seek help for a hearing problem.

Those interviewed talked about how experiences such as watching TV or enjoying conversations with loved ones - things that were not possible with hearing loss - were once again part of the everyday enjoyment of life. Social activities like dining at restaurants of going to the movies were also among the range of family life experienced through better hearing.

Thanks to recent advances in technology more help is available than ever before for those whose lives are affected by hearing loss. If left untreated, hearing loss will almost always become worse over time, another reason Dr. Hase urges people to contact the Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services if a hearing loss is thought to exist.

More Hearing Healthcare News
 

Hearing loss in middle age is associated with higher odds of cognitive decline and dementia in later years, suggests a large study in Taiwan.

Researchers tracked more than 16,000 men and women and found that a new diagnosis of hearing loss between ages 45 and 65 more than doubled the odds of a dementia diagnosis in the next dozen years.

Even mild levels of hearing loss could be a risk factor, so hearing protection, screening and hearing aids may be important means of reducing cognitive risk as well, the study team writes in JAMA Network Open.

“Hearing loss is a potentially reversible risk factor for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease,” said senior study author Charles Tzu-Chi Lee of National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei.

Past research suggests that about two-thirds of the risk for dementia is hereditary or genetic, which means about one-third of the risk is from things that are modifiable, Lee noted. Among modifiable risk factors, hearing loss accounts for about 9% of dementia risk, a greater proportion than factors like hypertension, obesity, depression, diabetes and smoking.

“The early identification of hearing loss ... and successful hearing rehabilitation can mitigate the negative effects of hearing loss,” Lee told Reuters Health by email. “However, the ideal time to perform hearing loss screening to reduce the risk of dementia remains unclear.”

Lee and colleague Chin-Mei Liu of the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control analyzed data on people aged 45 and older from the National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan. They matched 8,135 patients newly diagnosed with hearing loss between 2000 and 2011 to 8,135 similar individuals without hearing loss and followed them all through 2013.

All were free of dementia at the start, but over time, 1,868 people developed dementia - and 59% of them came from the hearing loss group.

Among people with hearing loss, new dementia cases were identified at a rate of 19 per 10,000 people, compared with 14 per 10,000 without hearing loss. Overall, hearing loss was associated with a 17% risk increase for dementia, the researchers calculated.

But when they looked at subsets of people, almost all the increased risk was concentrated in the youngest age group. Among those 45-65, dementia risk was 2.21-fold higher with hearing loss.

“The present study suggests that screening for hearing loss should be performed when people are middle-aged,” Lee said.

The results factored in variables such as sex, age and insurance type, as well as other known risks for cognitive decline and dementia. Among these, six other conditions were associated with an increased risk of dementia: cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, alcohol-related illnesses and head injury.

The study was not designed to determine how hearing loss might contribute to dementia, or if the two conditions share the same cause. One limitation of insurance data, the researchers note, is lack of precision in the dementia diagnoses.

“In an aging population, dementia will present one of the greatest challenges to society in this century,” said David Loughrey of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience in Dublin, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“There are now more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 5 for the first time in human history,” he told Reuters Health by email. “Pharmacological treatments for the most common cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, only offer symptom-modifying effects. This has led to suggestions that a change in approach to prevention rather than treatment after diagnosis may be more beneficial.”

Future studies will investigate whether treating hearing loss can decrease the risk of dementia, the study team writes.

“Hearing health is critically important to the human experience,” said Dr. Richard Gurgel of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“There is more to hearing loss than just hearing. Hearing loss affects the way we fundamentally communicate and connect with one another,” he said in an email. “Hearing loss impacts the overall health of older adults, including their emotional well-being and social isolation, as well as cognition.”

Article originally appeared on Reuters.