There are many well-known signs that you should watch out for as you get older, and much attention is paid to the symptoms of heart problems. However, when it comes to red flags for your brain health, your risks of cognitive decline may only become apparent once the disease begins to take its toll. But a new study has found that your ears may be a way to spot warning signs of dementia, finding that your risk of disease is 91% higher if you can’t hear while doing this one thing. Read on to see what you should listen to.
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A new study published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association July 21 set out to examine the relationship between hearing loss and the development of dementia. Researchers from the Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH) at the University of Oxford in the UK studied 82,039 men and women aged 60 and over from UK Biobank. They started the study by asking participants to identify numbers spoken against a background of white noise. Based on the results, each subject was then classified as having normal, insufficient, or poor speech-in-noise hearing.
Researchers continued to follow participants for 11 years, finding that 1,285 subjects were eventually diagnosed with dementia based on health and death records. The data showed that people in the poor speech-in-noise hearing group saw a 61% increased risk of developing dementia compared to those with normal hearing abilities, while those in the poor group saw a surprising jump in 91%.
Data from the study also showed that the risk of dementia remained the same when isolating cases over time, finding a similar likelihood of cognitive decline after nine years as within three years. This indicates the possibility that hearing loss could be seen as an early symptom of dementia and act as a potential warning sign.
“While most people think of memory problems when we hear the word dementia, that’s far from all. ” Katy stubbs, MD, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said in a statement. “Many people with dementia will have difficulty following speech in a noisy environment, a symptom sometimes referred to as the ‘cocktail problem’. This study suggests that these hearing changes may not only be a symptom of dementia, but a risk factor that could potentially be treated. “
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Other researchers believe the relationship between dementia and hearing loss is a direct result of a lack of stimulus, with imaging studies showing that your brain may start to struggle once it stops receiving so much. information from your ears that he’s used to. “The deterioration of the peripheral hearing system over time decreases the supply to the primary auditory centers of the brain”, Ana H. Kim, MD, director of otology research at Columbia Herbert University and Florence Irving Medical Center in New York City, told Healthline in 2018.
Eventually, the brain’s main auditory centers weaken. “This then creates a vicious cycle of decreased hearing ability, worsening executive function and increased risk of dementia,” Kim explained.
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While some have already speculated that the self-isolation that hearing loss can cause is often responsible for the onset of dementia, the new study found almost no evidence to support this claim. Instead, the researchers concluded that hearing loss could be a way to spot the disease before it fully develops and address specific issues to stop it in its tracks.
“Dementia affects millions of people around the world, and the number of cases is expected to reach [triple] in the coming decades “, Thomas littlejohns, MD, lead author of the study and senior epidemiologist at NDPH, concluded in a statement. “However, there is growing evidence that the development of dementia is not inevitable and that the risk could be reduced by treating pre-existing conditions. Although preliminary, these results suggest that hearing loss of speech in noise could represent a promising target for the prevention of dementia. “
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