The Link Between Vision and Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline
A recent New York Times article highlighted new studies that link vision and hearing loss to mental decline. It seems that the brain can get overloaded, and having to struggle to hear spoken words, or read print that is too small, can be too much. Have you ever felt like your brain was just overwhelmed and couldn’t absorb more information? Hearing and vision loss seem to put the brain in a permanent state of overload, which can actually lead to a decrease in cognitive abilities.
Both vision and hearing loss or impairment become more prevalent as we age, and the number of Americans with poor vision is expected to double by 2050. On top of vision problems, older adults are also at a higher risk of hearing loss, and nearly two-thirds of adults over 70 have some form of hearing loss. As debilitating as either hearing or vision loss can be, think of how the combined effects of both could be detrimental to quality of life. One in nine people over the age of 80 have both hearing and vision impairment, and the rate of dementia is doubling every 20 years.
A recent study done by JAMA Ophthalmology tracked the association of vision loss and cognition. The findings of this study concluded that vision loss (self-reported) correlated with 1.9 to 2.8 folds higher odds of cognitive dysfunction or dementia. This study shows the importance of staying up to date with vision screenings, and to treat any vision issues early, before detrimental consequences occur. While the study did not necessarily prove that vision loss led to cognitive decline, it did show that people with poor vision had a 63 percent greater risk of developing dementia. There is a link between vision loss and mental function, and it is hard to be completely engaged in your environment when you have either vision or hearing impairment.
We have talked before about how hearing loss can make it hard to engage with others, understand what is going on around you, and cause you to become isolated. But it seems that there is a direct link between cognitive abilities and hearing impairment. There are studies being done by the National Institute on Aging that are seeking to show that hearing aids can decrease the risk of dementia, and another study showed that hearing loss and accelerated cognitive decline were related. Those cognitive functions included memory, thought processing, and were developing problems up to three years earlier than people who were not hearing impaired. More severe hearing loss was linked to greater cognitive decline. Whether your brain is experiencing a cognitive overload while trying to decipher sounds, or if the isolation that hearing impairment can lead to causes reduced cognitive stimulation and leads to loss, hearing impairment can put you at risk for mental decline. Hearing loss is also linked to physical brain atrophy, that affects areas associated with memory, learning, and thinking.
Catching either vision or hearing loss early can help to combat the negative effects that both can have. Vision screenings every two to four years for people 40 to 54 is recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, with no symptoms or risk factors of vision loss. This increases to every one to three years for people 55 to 64. Conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration can all be detected early and treated to avoid vision loss. Likewise, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends hearing tests every decade up to the age of 50 and every three years after that. Being proactive with hearing testing is crucial, because many people don’t even notice when they first begin to have signs of hearing loss. Hearing tests are non-invasive, and there are no negative side effects to getting tested more frequently. If you have not had a hearing screening for awhile, or if you are experiencing hearing loss, get tested today!
We all want to strive to be healthy today and for many years to come. In light of these recent studies, one great step you could take for your mental health is to get regular vision and hearing screenings, and to correct any impairment that is found. Factory Hearing Direct is proud to carry the best and newest hearing aids on the market, including Siemens/Signia, Oticon, Widex, and Resound. With Factory Direct, you only need a hearing test, and we take care of programming your hearing aids exactly to your specifications, and shipping them direct to your door! Because the list of problems that hearing impairment can cause continues to increase, and these recent studies highlight how big of a mental impact hearing loss can have, taking action to improve hearing is essential. Don’t wait to correct hearing loss—get started at Factory Direct Hearing today!