Johns Hopkins/National Institute on Aging Research links Untreated Hearing Loss with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Older people with untreated hearing loss are at a much greater risk for developing dementia over time than those who can hear well according to a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Institute on Aging.

According to Dr. Frank Lin, research leader, compared with normal hearing participants, those with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss had twofold, threefold, and fivefold the risk of developing dementia over time. The study showed the greater the hearing loss, the higher the risk of developing the disease.

According to Dr. Lin, treatment as simple as a hearing aid can prevent or delay the onset of the disease. “A lot of people ignore hearing loss because it’s such a slow and insidious process as we age,” Lin says. “Even if people feel as if they are not affected, we’re showing that it may well be a more serious problem.”

The landmark study done by the National Council on Aging links untreated hearing loss with depression, anxiety, and paranoia. People with untreated hearing loss were less likely to participate in organized social activities.

“This study debunks the myth that hearing loss in older persons is a harmless condition,” said James Firman, Ed.D., president and CEO of The National Council on the Aging. The survey of 2,300 hearing impaired adults age 50 and older found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and were less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.

“It is very sad that so many older people are letting denial or vanity get in the way of treatments that can significantly improve the quality of their lives,” said Dr. Firman, who is hearing impaired himself. “Doctors, care givers, and family members should insist that seniors with hearing-loss seek appropriate treatment.”

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