Audiology Services for Nursing Homes

Untreated hearing loss is linked to Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Older adults with untreated hearing loss appear more likely to develop dementia, and their risk increases as hearing loss becomes more severe, according to a report in the February issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. The Study done by Dr. Frank Lin, M.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and researchers from the National Institute on Aging compared normal hearing participants with those with untreated hearing loss. Those with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss had two-times, three-times, and five-times greater risk of developing dementia over time. In fact, the study found the greater the hearing loss; the higher the risk of developing the disease. The research could lead to new ways of warding off dementia, a problem that affects millions of people around the world and brings with it heavy societal burdens, say the researchers. According to Dr. Lin, “a hearing aid could help postpone or prevent dementia”.

Neuroplasticity and Hearing Loss

When the brain loses the stimulation it gets from normal hearing, that section of the brain assigned to use “auditory stimulation” will be reassigned to be used for other functions. The brain neuron structure is “plastic” and will reshape itself based on stimulus availability. When hearing aids are used to increase aural stimulation, there is a period of time required for the brain to reshape itself and to reestablish neural pathways to utilize the renewed aural stimulation provided by the hearing aids. The longer the individual has been without normal stimulation; the longer it takes to reestablish neural pathways. Most residents will require regular and continued use of the hearing instruments to obtain the best results. The brain must be given regular and consistent aural stimulation in order for the neural pathways to be reestablished effectively.