Continued Research in the Field of Memory Loss
By Silverado Staff Writer
A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University examined the relationship between hearing loss and higher brain function. Interestingly, their results suggest a direct correlation between hearing loss and an accelerated decline in brain function for older adults.
More than 1,900 men and women between the ages of 75 and 84 participated in this ongoing research study. When the study began in 2001, the participants had normal brain function and good physical health. To establish a baseline, each participant was tested for hearing loss, which was defined as the ability to recognize sounds at 25 decibels or louder.
As participants aged, they were also asked to complete two types of cognitive tests—the Digit Symbol Substitution test and the Mini-Mental State Exam. Participants were given a series of tasks to follow, asked to memorize words, match numbers to symbols and questioned about areas of common knowledge. Participants were then tested four more times over the next six years, to assess the progression of cognitive decline.
After six years of testing, the participants with hearing loss showed a 30%-40% faster decline in brain function than those with normal hearing. On average, those with hearing loss developed significant cognitive impairment 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.
This ongoing study provides a significant area for further exploration. And while the study doesn’t necessarily prove the correlation between hearing loss and cognitive impairment, it is encouraging to see continued research in the field of memory loss.