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Friday's Health Report: Severe hearing loss can lead to dementia, cochlear implants may help

3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago Friday, June 21 2024 Jun 21, 2024 June 21, 2024 5:45 PM June 21, 2024 in Health
Source: CNN

BATON ROUGE — Recent studies have shown a strong link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Severe hearing loss can make the risk of cognitive decline up to five times more likely.

Imagine the effort it would take to constantly squint at a blurry chalkboard. That's similar to what the brain goes through when someone is experiencing hearing loss.

"As we work harder to hear, the brain is utilizing extra cognitive resources just to listen in and make sense of the words and
sentences. And that can be fatiguing to the brain," otolaryngologist Nicholas Deep said. "Similarly, if we don't stimulate the auditory pathway, those synapses become weaker and weaker over time. They can even begin to shrink, and that can also accelerate cognitive decline."

Severe hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia fivefold. However, it's a modifiable risk.

"A cochlear implant is a device to restore hearing in patients with advanced hearing loss by bypassing the damaged inner ear hair cells and providing direct stimulation to the hearing nerve," Deep said

Unlike a hearing aid, which just amplifies sound, a cochlear implant improves the speech clarity of that sound, making conversation easier.

"We know that treating hearing loss, whether with hearing aids or cochlear implantation, has tremendous quality of life
benefits in terms of improving independence and reducing social isolation," Deep said.

And it may even reduce the rate of cognitive decline for those at greater risk.

"A recent large, prospective trial found that in older adults at risk for cognitive decline, use of the hearing aid for three years
reduced their cognitive decline by 48%. So it really underscores the importance of hearing and its ability to maintain healthy
cognitive function," Deep said.

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