Nav: Home

Exploring the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline

January 29, 2019

Hearing loss affects tens of millions of Americans and its global prevalence is expected to grow as the world's population ages. A new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital adds to a growing body of evidence that hearing loss is associated with higher risk of cognitive decline. These findings suggest that hearing loss may help identify individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and could provide insights for earlier intervention and prevention.

"Dementia is a substantial public health challenge that continues to grow. There is no cure, and effective treatments to prevent progression or reverse the course of dementia are lacking," said lead author Sharon Curhan, MD, MSc, a physician and epidemiologist in the Channing Division for Network Medicine at the Brigham. "Our findings show that hearing loss is associated with new onset of subjective cognitive concerns which may be indicative of early stage changes in cognition. These findings may help identify individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline."

Curhan and colleagues conducted an eight-year longitudinal study among 10,107 men aged ?62 years in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HFPS). They assessed subjective cognitive function (SCF) scores based on responses to a six-item questionnaire administered in 2008, 2012 and 2016. SCF decline was defined as a new report of at least one SCF concern during follow-up.

The team found that hearing loss was associated with higher risk of subjective cognitive decline. Compared with men with no hearing loss, the relative risk of cognitive decline was 30 percent higher among men with mild hearing loss, 42 percent higher among men with moderate hearing loss, and 54 percent higher among men with severe hearing loss but who did not use hearing aids.

Researchers were interested to see if hearing aids might modify risk. Although the found that among men with severe hearing loss who used hearing aids, the risk of cognitive decline was somewhat less (37 percent higher), it was not statistically significantly different from the risk among those who did not use hearing aids. The authors note that this may have been due to limited power or could suggest that if a difference truly exists, the magnitude of the effect may be modest.

The authors also note that the study was limited to predominantly older white male health professionals. This allowed for greater control of variability but further studies in additional populations would be helpful. In addition, the study relies on self-reported hearing loss and subjective measures of cognitive function. In the future, the team plans to investigate the relationships between self-reported hearing loss, change in audiometric hearing thresholds, and changes in cognition in women using several different assessment measures.

"Whether there is a temporal association between hearing loss and cognitive decline and whether this relation is causal remains unclear," said Curhan. "We plan to conduct further longitudinal studies of the relation of hearing loss and cognition in women and in younger populations, which will be informative."
-end-
This work was supported by grants DC 010811, UM1 CA167552, and UM1 CA 176726 from the National Institutes of Health.

Paper cited: Curhan, S et al. "Longitudinal study of hearing loss and subjective cognitive function decline in men" Alzheimer's & Dementia DOI: 10.1016/j.jalz.2018.11.004

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Related Hearing Loss Articles:

Victorian child hearing-loss databank to go global
A unique databank that profiles children with hearing loss will help researchers globally understand why some children adapt and thrive, while others struggle.
Hearing loss, dementia risk in population of Taiwan
A population-based study using data from the National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan suggests hearing loss is associated with risk of dementia.
Mice reveal 38 new genes involved in hearing loss
Multiple new genes involved in hearing loss have been revealed in a large study of mouse mutants by researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, King's College London, and colleagues.
New contributor to age-related hearing loss identified
Researchers have discovered a new potential contributor to age-related hearing loss, a finding that could help doctors identify people at risk and better treat the condition.
Exploring the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline
A new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital adds to a growing body of evidence that hearing loss is associated with higher risk of cognitive decline.
Signs of memory problems could be symptoms of hearing loss instead
Older adults concerned about displaying early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease should also consider a hearing check-up, suggest recent findings.
Hearing loss is a risk factor for premature death
A new study links hearing loss with an increased risk for mortality before the age of 75 due to cardiovascular disease.
Study points to possible new therapy for hearing loss
Researchers have taken an important step toward what may become a new approach to restore the hearing loss.
Are portable music players associated with hearing loss in children?
The effect of portable music players on the hearing of children is unclear.
New study shows hope for hearing loss
USC and Harvard scientists found a new way to fix cells deep inside the ear, which could help millions of people who suffer hearing loss.
More Hearing Loss News and Hearing Loss Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.