The often overlooked link between hearing loss and cognitive decline

Mar 06, 2024
There are some aspects of hearing loss we don't address often enough. Source: Getty Images.

In a world filled with constant noise and distractions, the importance of maintaining good hearing often takes a back seat in our pursuit of overall well-being. However, research highlights the subtle yet profound impact that hearing loss can have on our cognitive health, bringing attention to a connection that is often overlooked.

Hearing loss is not merely a matter of struggling to hear; it is a condition that can significantly influence various aspects of our lives. From loneliness and depression to the more alarming cognitive decline, the consequences of untreated hearing loss are far-reaching. Many are unaware of the crucial link between preserving good hearing and experiencing a healthy ageing process.

Dr. Catherine Birman, a leading expert in the field, emphasised that the degree of hearing loss plays a pivotal role in determining the associated risks.

Citing a study led by Professor Frank Lyn at John Hopkins University, Dr. Birman reveals a compelling correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline, particularly dementia.

“They found that over a period of ten years if you had a mild hearing loss you had a two-fold risk of developing dementia over that ten-year period,” Dr. Birman recently told Starts at 60.

“If you had moderate hearing loss, [you had] a three-followed risk, and if you had severe or profound, a five followed risk of developing dementia over a ten-year period.

“So the degree of hearing loss is really important as well.”

The research sheds light on the hidden toll that untreated hearing loss can take on the brain. When left unaddressed, hearing loss forces the brain to work harder to process sounds, thereby increasing the risk of cognitive decline. This revelation underscores the importance of being proactive about hearing health and addressing any issues early on to promote a higher quality of life as we age.

Moreover, the negative effects of hearing loss are often compounded by social isolation, which further exacerbates cognitive decline by limiting mental engagement and stimulation.

Recognising this, experts stress the need to break down barriers associated with hearing loss and encourage individuals to take charge of their hearing health.

In an effort to normalise discussions about hearing health, Starts at 60 is teaming up with Cochlear to present a free live online event. Scheduled for Monday, March 11th, at 10 am NSW/VIC time and 9 am QLD time, this 45-minute masterclass will feature a panel of experts exploring the crucial link between hearing loss and cognitive decline.

Among the distinguished panelists sharing their wealth of expertise are:

Gerard Quigley – Community Pharmacist, Master Herbalist, Media Health Commentator, Author

Bringing over 50 years of experience to the table, Gerald Quigley is not only a practicing Community Pharmacist but also an Accredited Herbalist. His dual qualifications provide him with a unique, holistic perspective on health. Gerald passionately advocates for holistic well-being, aiming to empower individuals to make informed health choices and enhance their quality of life, especially as they age.

Caroline Reichard – Bimodal Cochlear Implant Recipient:

Caroline’s life story is a testament to resilience, determination, and the transformative power of technology. Experiencing deafness in her left ear since childhood, Caroline’s hearing loss wasn’t discovered until she was 10. Now, at 62, she stands as a bimodal Cochlear implant recipient, embodying the possibilities of modern advancements. With a professional background in pharmaceuticals and medical devices, Caroline is dedicated to adding value to Australian healthcare, always placing patient health and well-being at the forefront of her endeavors.

Dr. Andrew Chang – Renowned ENT Surgeon:

Dr. Andrew Chang is a highly esteemed ENT, Otology, and Hearing Implant Surgeon with over a decade of experience. Specialising in pediatric and adult ENT conditions, he is recognised as a pioneer in minimally invasive ear surgery in Brisbane. Dr. Chang’s surgical training in Queensland and prestigious international fellowship at Cambridge University Hospital in the UK have solidified his expertise in Cochlear Implant Surgery and the treatment of complex ear diseases.

Dr. Tegan Keogh – Specialist Clinical Audiologist:

A leading expert in hearing health, Dr. Tegan Keogh brings extensive clinical practice and a rare Doctorate (PhD) degree to the field of Audiology. As the only privately practicing Audiologist on the Sunshine Coast with a PhD, Dr. Keogh’s dynamic and innovative practice, Hear Check, is focused on client needs. With over two decades of experience, her internationally published work and presentations to global audiences make her a respected figure in the field of Audiology, contributing significantly to the advancement of hearing healthcare.

Attendees will gain valuable insights into identifying symptoms and discovering preventive measures to protect their cognitive well-being.

By addressing the often overlooked link between hearing loss and cognitive decline, this initiative aims to empower individuals to take control of their hearing health, paving the way for a healthier and more fulfilling life in their 60s and beyond.

If you’re keen on delving deeper into the connection between maintaining a healthy lifestyle as you age and addressing hearing loss, make sure not to miss our masterclass. Discover why taking steps to treat hearing loss can pave the way for you to lead your best life beyond 60.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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