Early Detection and Treatment of Hearing Loss May Stave off Dementia

By: Nigel Whittle
Head of Medical & Healthcare

29th November 2019

4 minute read

Home » Insights » Early Detection and Treatment of Hearing Loss May Stave off Dementia

In a recent landmark study, researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Centre in New York have demonstrated a clear link between hearing loss and impairment of memory and cognitive skills.[1]

Previous investigations had already indicated a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, but those studies only examined people already diagnosed with hearing loss, defined as the inability to hear sounds below 25dB. This current study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has taken the investigation a step further.

A team led by hearing specialist Justin Golub MD studied data from 6,451 adults with an average age of 59 who took hearing and cognitive tests. They found that for every 10dB increase in the lower limit of hearing, there was a significant decrease in cognitive ability. Moreover, the largest decrease occurred in those whose hearing was just starting to become impaired – just 10dB off normal hearing capability, when hearing is still considered normal.

This is significant as age-related hearing loss affects about two-thirds of the elderly over 70, while only 14% of American adults with hearing loss wear a hearing aid.

“Most people with hearing loss believe they can go about their lives just fine without treatment and maybe some can,” says Golub. “But hearing loss is not benign. It has been linked to social isolation, depression, cognitive decline and dementia. Hearing loss should be treated. This study suggests the earlier, the better.”

The current study could not prove that hearing loss caused cognitive impairment and it is possible that declines in both hearing and cognitive performance are related to common ageing-related processes. But the study’s design suggests a causal link: “It’s possible that people who don’t hear well tend to socialise less. Over many years this could have a negative impact on cognition.” Golub said that if that were the case, preventing or treating hearing loss could reduce the incidence of dementia.

Plextek Technology

Plextek has developed innovative hearing analysis technology that can reliably detect early signs of hearing loss well before a person becomes aware of the symptoms. It has been designed for integration within standard everyday consumer headphones and has been described as a potential ‘game-changer’ in the prevention of tinnitus and hearing loss.

“This clinical study indicates the importance of early detection of hearing loss, allowing remedial action to be taken in a timely manner. The data strongly validates our approach to hearing loss and we are excited about the impact that our technology could have on the rising incidence of dementia”, said Dr Nigel Whittle, Head of Medical & Healthcare.

If you would like to chat further to our medical team, please email hello@Plextek.com to set up a call.

 


[1]‘Association of Subclinical Hearing Loss With Cognitive Performance’, Golub, JS; Brickman, AM; Ciarleglio, AJ; et al. JAMA Otolaryngol. Head Neck Surg. November 14, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaoto.2019.3375

In a recent landmark study, researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Centre in New York have demonstrated a clear link between hearing loss and impairment of memory and cognitive skills.[1]

Previous investigations had already indicated a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, but those studies only examined people already diagnosed with hearing loss, defined as the inability to hear sounds below 25dB. This current study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has taken the investigation a step further.

A team led by hearing specialist Justin Golub MD studied data from 6,451 adults with an average age of 59 who took hearing and cognitive tests. They found that for every 10dB increase in the lower limit of hearing, there was a significant decrease in cognitive ability. Moreover, the largest decrease occurred in those whose hearing was just starting to become impaired – just 10dB off normal hearing capability, when hearing is still considered normal.

This is significant as age-related hearing loss affects about two-thirds of the elderly over 70, while only 14% of American adults with hearing loss wear a hearing aid.

“Most people with hearing loss believe they can go about their lives just fine without treatment and maybe some can,” says Golub. “But hearing loss is not benign. It has been linked to social isolation, depression, cognitive decline and dementia. Hearing loss should be treated. This study suggests the earlier, the better.”

The current study could not prove that hearing loss caused cognitive impairment and it is possible that declines in both hearing and cognitive performance are related to common ageing-related processes. But the study’s design suggests a causal link: “It’s possible that people who don’t hear well tend to socialise less. Over many years this could have a negative impact on cognition.” Golub said that if that were the case, preventing or treating hearing loss could reduce the incidence of dementia.

Plextek Technology

Plextek has developed innovative hearing analysis technology that can reliably detect early signs of hearing loss well before a person becomes aware of the symptoms. It has been designed for integration within standard everyday consumer headphones and has been described as a potential ‘game-changer’ in the prevention of tinnitus and hearing loss.

“This clinical study indicates the importance of early detection of hearing loss, allowing remedial action to be taken in a timely manner. The data strongly validates our approach to hearing loss and we are excited about the impact that our technology could have on the rising incidence of dementia”, said Dr Nigel Whittle, Head of Medical & Healthcare.

If you would like to chat further to our medical team, please email hello@Plextek.com to set up a call.

 


[1]‘Association of Subclinical Hearing Loss With Cognitive Performance’, Golub, JS; Brickman, AM; Ciarleglio, AJ; et al. JAMA Otolaryngol. Head Neck Surg. November 14, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaoto.2019.3375

Top