Hearing Loss as a Risk Factors for Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease

Detection of dementia at the earliest stages has become a worldwide scientific priority because drug treatments, prevention strategies and other interventions will likely be more effective very early in the disease process, before extensive brain damage has occurred. Research results reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017 provide clues about associations between cognitive status in older people and several behavior and lifestyle factors, including verbal skill, hearing, and hospitalization. “It is essential that we learn more about factors that indicate or impact risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, especially lifestyle factors that we can change or treat,” said Maria C. Carrillo, PhD, Alzheimer’s Association Chief Science Officer. “The Alzheimer’s Association is committed to advancing scientific research to identify simple and accessible ways to spot the signs of cognitive decline.” Having trouble with memory does not mean you have Alzheimer’s. That said, the Alzheimer’s Association says early detection allows people with dementia and their families:

  • A better chance of benefiting from treatment.
  • More time to plan for the future.
  • Increased chances of participating in clinical drug trials, helping advance research.
  • An opportunity to participate in decisions about care, living options, financial and legal matters.

Hearing loss is associated with poor cognition and progression to mild cognitive impairment reported Taylor Fields, a doctoral student in the Neuroscience Training Program within the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and colleagues examined the prevalence of hearing loss in late middle-aged adults with a family history of Alzheimer’s, and the association between hearing loss and cognitive status and decline. The researchers found evidence for a link between hearing loss and mild cognitive impairment, a condition that can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists used data collected from 783 people enrolled in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP), a longitudinal study group of people with a parental history of Alzheimer’s. Participants undergo periodic tests to evaluate their ability to remember, process, and learn information. Study volunteers self-reported whether they had been diagnosed with hearing loss. At the beginning of the study, all volunteers had normal test results for clinical tests of cognitive function, and all were assessed for progression to mild cognitive impairment. Over the course of four years, 72 (9.2 percent) study participants reported being diagnosed with hearing loss. Relative to those who reported normal hearing, people in the study with hearing loss were:

  • More likely to score significantly poorer on cognitive tests such as how quickly new information is processed, flexibility in thinking, and how the brain, eye, and hand coordinate during information processing.
  • Roughly three times as likely to be characterized as having mild cognitive impairment.

“This study suggests that hearing loss could be an early indicator of worsening cognitive performance in older adults,” Fields said. “Identifying and treating hearing loss could have value for interventions aimed at reducing the burden of Alzheimer’s disease.” For more information go to www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 1.800.272.3900   (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dX5lyRTZixc&feature=youtube)

(Released on July 17, 2017 from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) held in London, England)

Submitted By: Alzheimer’s Association

Phone Number: (214) 540-2400 or (800) 272-3900 Helpline

Website: www.alz.org/greaterdallas