Doctors have long suspected that hearing loss in older adults hastens dementia, the cognitive decline associated with aging. A new study published in The Lancet on Tuesday probes the link between the two conditions further in what could be the first randomized controlled trial of its kind.
More than 55 million people have dementia worldwide; a number that continues to grow as more people live longer. Hearing loss has emerged as one of the likely risk factors for dementia for several reasons. As the brain struggles to hear, scientists suspect, it might have less capacity for cognitive work like thinking or remembering. The brain shrinks faster when it absorbs less sound. Hearing loss can also lead to social isolation, leaving older folks less cognitively engaged.