Hearing loss is a natural part of aging nobody likes to admit is happening. But happen it does – and ignoring it comes with a cost. It could put you at risk for another feared consequence of aging: dementia.
“The greater your hearing loss, the more likely you are to develop dementia,” said Dr. Alexander Chern, an ear, nose and throat doctor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
By age 70, research shows 2 in 3 U.S. adults have lost some hearing. Yet the vast majority – more than 80% – fail to seek treatment. Age-related hearing loss is the largest modifiable risk factor for dementia, according to a 2020 report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention and care. Hearing loss in midlife accounts for an estimated 8.2% of all dementia cases.
But why that is remains unclear.
Just as there are many causes for dementia, there also are many potential mechanisms linking hearing loss to a decline in brain health, experts say. And as with dementia, it’s possible more than one is operating at the same time, said Timothy Griffiths, a professor of cognitive neurology at Newcastle University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.