A recent study performed by University College London and published in The Lancet revealed the top risk factors associated with the development of dementia:
- high blood pressure
- midlife hearing loss
- low education
- midlife obesity
- late-life depression
- physical inactivity
- social isolation
In the most surprising finding from the study, the single most significant risk factor in accelerated cognitive decline was midlife hearing loss, accounting for 9% of the risk of dementia. Research has not yet shown whether treating hearing loss in these cases is associated with reduction in the risk of developing dementia.
It is also not yet understood why hearing loss increases the risk of dementia, but researchers theorize that hearing loss leads to social isolation, another risk factor. Another theory is that the brain must work harder to decode degraded sounds, and the repeated effort has a negative impact on neural resources.
“What keeps your brain healthy is a cognitively rich environment,” said Livingston. “One of the easiest ways to get that is to talk. [But] people who can’t hear often avoid complex social situations.”
Additional research on hearing loss and dementia was the subject of a pilot study and a pending clinical trial by the Lin Research Group at Johns Hopkins University studying hearing loss treatment a group of 70-84 year olds at risk for cognitive decline.