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Do slight hearing losses indicate cognitive problems?
Even slight hearing loss is associated with a measurable cognitive decline in older people, as a recent study shows.
A recent study by the New York-Presbyterian / Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City found that even minor hearing loss in older people could indicate a mental decline. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery".
Hearing loss among the participants was very low
Slight hearing loss, which was even lower than the usual limit for diagnosis, is associated with a measurable mental decline in older people. Affected seniors who had such slight hearing loss would be classified as normal hearing according to the current standard. Currently, people are only considered to be hearing impaired if they can only perceive sounds from a sound intensity of 25 decibels.
People with poor hearing suffered from cognitive decline
At a volume of 15 decibels, which is comparable to whispering or rustling leaves, some of the older people had difficulty hearing. These individuals also often had a clinically significant cognitive decline.
Why are hearing problems associated with cognitive decline?
Some researchers suspect that hearing problems can lead to cognitive problems because the brain has to pay so much attention to hearing. Other mental functions could therefore be restricted. According to the researchers, people with poor hearing use much more energy to decipher the words that are said to them. They don't get to process the meaning of what has been said, which is the intellectually stimulating part.
People with poor hearing need more resources to decode words
The researchers compare brain fitness with physical fitness. For example, if runners had to think about how to take each step, they probably wouldn't be able to run really fast. Parts of our brains that are involved in complex thinking do not get enough resources if more resources have to be used to decode the words in a conversation.
People with poor hearing socialize worse
It has also been shown that people with poor hearing are less socialized. This is mainly due to the fact that it is harder for affected people to have intellectually stimulating conversations. This means that fewer such conversations are held. The research team concludes that the human brain is like a tool that has to be used and maintained constantly to stay healthy. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Justin S. Golub, Adam M. Brickman, Adam J. Ciarleglio, Nicole Schupf, José A. Luchsinger: Association of Subclinical Hearing Loss With Cognitive Performance, in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery (query: November 15, 2019), JAMA Otolaryngology -Head & Neck Surgery