Hidden Hearing on article “Hearing Loss Linked to Dementia”

Age-related hearing loss starts messing with the volume

Age-related hearing loss starts messing with the volume

We were sent a link to an article in The New York Times, “Straining to Hear and Fend off Dementia,” written in Feb  by Katherine Bouton, a former Times editor. In her article, Bouton described a personal experience that many have often encountered. Many times, we have been at a party or meeting and tried to have a conversation with an individual. We strain and stretch, eager to hear above the din of surrounding conversations, then we forget what we were trying to say and forget our friend’s name. We are defeated by our ears.

Social isolation increases our risk of dementia. It can happen anytime, any place. When it does, it threatens our sense of well-being and stability. Recently, a friend complained about difficulties she experienced carrying on a conversation. She wondered why she had joined the celebration. She felt alone, distanced from everyone in the midst of the crowd. Isolation in the middle of a party is a scary place to be. Hearing aids may work during a quiet conversation, one on one, but frequently fail in a group setting.

Dr. Frank Lin from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine describes this experience as “cognitive load.”

“Essentially, the brain is so preoccupied with translating the sounds into words that it seems to have no processing power left to search through the storerooms of memory for a response.”

Dolores Madden from Hidden Hearing explains  – “Our heads are working so hard to catch the conversation, we cannot respond appropriately. In a long-term study in 2011, Dr. Lin from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that people with mild hearing loss had a greater risk of dementia than people with normal hearing.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.

When should you think about getting tested for hearing loss?

recognising-hearing-lossHearing loss is common with aging, affecting nearly one-third of adults over 65 and half over 75. Dolores Madden from Hidden Hearing, explains that hearing loss has two parts. One is an inability to hear sounds at lower volumes, the second is a loss of clarity — hearing but not understanding. Loss of clarity is often the first symptom of hearing loss in adults. “The first complaints we get are difficulty with background noise,” Madden says — making out a conversation in a crowded restaurant, or when music or a loud fan is on. You may hear someone calling from another room but not understand the words, or you may have trouble conversing while sitting side-by-side in front of a television, when you can’t see your companion’s lips and expressions.

Hearing tests are recommended based on symptoms, not age. The important sign of hearing loss is a change from what you could distinguish or understand before. Madden says it’s worth getting thoroughly tested to identify a hearing loss even if you don’t think you need a hearing aid. In some instances a test can identify a treatable medical condition such as fluid buildup in the ears. In cases of mild hearing loss, an audiologist can discuss strategies to make communication easier. Madden says a hearing aid becomes more necessary when normal conversations are difficult to hear, which puts people at risk of social isolation.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.

Hearing loss speeds up brain decline in older adults

Older-man-exercising-001Older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal, according to a new study by hearing experts at Johns Hopkins.

In the study, volunteers with hearing loss, undergoing repeated cognition tests over six years, had cognitive abilities that declined some 30 percent to 40 percent faster than in those whose hearing was normal. Levels of declining brain function were directly related to the amount of hearing loss, the researchers say. On average, older adults with hearing loss developed a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.

The findings, to be reported in the JAMA Internal Medicine online Jan. 21, are among the first to emerge from a larger, ongoing study monitoring the health of older blacks and whites in Memphis, Tenn., and Pittsburgh, Pa. Known as the Health, Aging and Body Composition, or Health ABC study, the latest report on older adults involved a subset of 1,984 men and women between the ages of 75 and 84, and is believed to be the first to gauge the impact of hearing loss on higher brain functions over the long term. According to senior study investigator and Johns Hopkins otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., all study participants had normal brain function when the study began in 2001, and were initially tested for hearing loss, which hearing specialists define as recognizing only those sounds louder than 25 decibels.

“Our results show that hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging, because it may come with some serious long-term consequences to healthy brain functioning,” says Lin, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Our findings emphasize just how important it is for physicians to discuss hearing with their patients and to be proactive in addressing any hearing declines over time,” says Lin. He estimates that as many as 27 million Americans over age 50, including two-thirds of men and women aged 70 years and older, suffer from some form of hearing loss. More worrisome, he says, only 15 percent of those who need a hearing aid get one, leaving much of the problem and its consequences untreated.

Possible explanations for the cognitive slide, Lin says, include the ties between hearing loss and social isolation, with loneliness being well established in previous research as a risk factor for cognitive decline. Degraded hearing may also force the brain to devote too much of its energy to processing sound, and at the expense of energy spent on memory and thinking. He adds there may also be some common, underlying damage that leads to both hearing and cognitive problems.

Lin and his team already have plans under way to launch a much larger study to determine if use of hearing aids or other devices to treat hearing loss in older adults might forestall or delay cognitive decline.

In the latest study, which began in 1997, all participants were in good general physical health at the time. Hearing tests were given to volunteers in 2001, during which they individually listened to a range of soft and loud sounds, from 0 decibels to 100 decibels, in a soundproof room.

Brain functioning was also assessed in 2001, using two well-recognized tests of memory and thinking ability, known as the Modified Mini-Mental State (3MS) and Digit Symbol Substitution (DSS), respectively. Included in the 3MS test, study participants were asked to memorize words, given commands or instructional tasks to follow, and asked basic questions as to the correct year, date and time. In the DSS test, study participants were asked to match specific numbers to symbols and timed on how long it took them to complete the task. Both types of tests were repeated for each study participant three more times until the study ended in 2007, to gauge cognitive decline. Factors already known to contribute to loss of brain function were accounted for in the researchers’ analysis, including age, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.

Will I go deaf like my parents?

My late mother and father both became quite deaf in their seventies and it caused them a lot of discomfort in their final years. I remember them having some difficulty with hearing aids. I’m 55 now. Is it inevitable that I will also lose my hearing? Is there a hereditary element to hearing loss?


Sound is the way most of us receive life’s narrative. That is, until age-related hearing loss starts messing with the volume. High-pitched voices get harder to understand; phone calls are more difficult to decipher. The stories become muddled. Frustration grows.

There are many reasons why hearing loss and deafness happen. Loud noise, illness, medications such as hormone replacement therapies – all can play a part in a person’s losing the ability to process sounds.

Aging, however, remains a leading contender.

“It’s really something that affects every family with older relatives,” says audiologist Dolores Madden of Hidden Hearing.

It took nine years to complete a University of South Florida formal study, but last month the University’s Global Center for Hearing & Speech Research linked age-related hearing loss to a protein-producing gene in the inner ear. Mutated versions of the gene make the ear unable to translate sounds into nerve impulses interpreted by the brain.

People with a family history of hearing loss can can be tested — and warned — years earlier if that one gene isn’t just right, says the USF study, published in the journal Hearing Research in October.

The research also takes a significant step past what’s already known about how aging changes the inner ear. That includes the understanding that older people should be concerned about damage or death to the tiny hairs inside the ear, which are essential to catching sound waves.

This knowledge might nudge some to take more care with their hearing earlier in life. They might decide to wear headphones while mowing the lawn, or avoid standing too close to speakers at a rock concert. ”If you do know, you can take more precautions,” Madden says. ” The earlier someone is diagnosed and treated for hearing loss, the better, for all concerned. Hidden Hearing offer free hearing evaluations and it is fast and simple to do.”

You should be aware that modern digital hearing aids are now smaller and more discrete than ever, with greater power to deliver better sound quality using computer processing and multidirectional microphones. The difficulties your parents have had in the past may have been with older hearing-aid models that didn’t deliver the standard of hearing care of their modern equivalents.

You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.

By Edel Rooney

Gradual hearing loss – the causes

The human body isn’t perfect, as it grows in age, simple things like the senses, sight, smell and even hearing may start to disappear. For example, when parts of the ears don’t work properly a person may start to experience. In this article we take a look at the common causes of so you can be knowledgeable in avoiding it.

There are many meanings to the term, and it encompasses not just a person who is unable to hear completely. But the term by definition, also means hearing but just not hearing too well. The causes of hearing loss can be quite common sense, but there are a lot that are also unthinkable.

Birth defects is the most common cause of s as it is also the most prevalent form of birth defect among babies. The babies are born with malfunctioning hearing nerves, unformed eardrums or even have very small ear canals that lead to hearing loss. Birth defects are often permanent, but while some are very hard to manage, others can be treated easily with the use of hearing aids or in more extreme cases surgery.

Hearing loss can also be blamed on a person’s genetic makeup or body programming. The hearing loss gene, so to speak, can be passed down from parents to their children and grandchildren and so on regardless of whether the gene is dominant or not. Some people who have this genetic disability cannot hear a single thing while others are completely fine.

It is sometimes normal for people to have hearing loss when they are sick. Mumps, HIV and autoimmune diseases can have an adverse affect on hearing. However, while some illness can induce permanent hearing impairment and deafness, most do not and are only temporary.

Another common cause of hearing loss believe it or not, is medicines or medication. Some medications are known to damage parts of the ear permanently affecting a person’s hearing. There are certain antibiotics that have been proven clinically to cause hearing loss in a person.

Everywhere around us are chemicals in various forms, sizes and shapes and not all chemicals are safe as some can lead to hearing loss in a person. Ototoxic is simply defined as toxins that can damage the ear’s cochlea, auditory nerve and other ear parts. Under this group are some solvents, pesticides, solutions and the best way to avoid being affected by these is by avoiding the chemicals completely.

Trauma commonly also causes hearing loss in a person. Most common one being a blow to the head that was substantial enough to cause some sort of damage to the person’s ear. Being in a loud concert, living near an airport or working in a construction site are all examples of trauma that can affect hearing as well.

If you recognise any of these ask for a FREE consultation at any branch of Hidden Hearing.


Johns Hopkins researchers finds widespread under treatment of hearing loss

John Hopkins University and Hospital

Though an estimated 26.7 million Americans age 50 and older have hearing loss, only about one in seven uses a hearing aid, according to a new study led by Johns Hopkins researchers. The finding adds clarity to less rigorous estimates by device manufacturers and demonstrates how widespread under treatment of hearing loss is in the United States, the study investigators say.

“Understanding current rates of hearing loss treatment is important, as evidence is beginning to surface that hearing loss is associated with poorer cognitive functioning and the risk of dementia,” says study senior investigator, otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. “Previous studies that have attempted to estimate hearing aid use have relied on industry marketing data or focused on specific groups that don’t represent a true sample of the United States population,” adds Lin, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

To address the data gap, Lin and Wade Chien, M.D., also an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins, used data from the 1999-2006 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a research program that has periodically gathered health information from thousands of Americans since 1971. During those cycles, participants answered questions about whether they used a hearing aid and had their hearing tested.

Their new findings, to be published in the Archives of Internal Medicine online February 13, 2012, showed that only about one in seven individuals age 50 or older – 14 percent – use hearing aids. Although hearing aid use rose with age, ranging from 4.3 percent in individuals 50 to 59 years old to 22.1 percent in those 80 and older. Overall, another 23 million could possibly benefit from using the devices, says Lin.

Lin says many with hearing loss likely avoid their use, in part, because health insurance often does not cover the costs and because people do not receive the needed rehabilitative training to learn how to integrate the devices into their daily lives. But another major reason, he says, is that people often consider hearing loss inevitable and of minor concern.

“There’s still a perception among the public and many medical professionals that hearing loss is an inconsequential part of the aging process and you can’t do anything about it,” says Lin. “We want to turn that idea around.”

Lin and his colleagues currently are leading a study to investigate the effects of hearing aids and cochlear implants on the social, memory and thinking abilities of older adults. Funding support for this study was provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

If you have any questions about hearing loss or hearing aids contact Hidden Hearing

Every 10 decibels of hearing loss, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease went up by 20%

Recent research has found a relationship between hearing loss and the onset of memory loss in Alzheimer’s Disease.

In a September online report in the journal Psychology and Aging, Canadian researchers compared the hearing ability of 74 musicians aged 19 to 91 and 89 non-musicians aged 18 to 86.

They defined a musician as someone who started musical training by age 16, had the equivalent of six years of formal lessons, and continued practicing until the day of testing. The non-musicians did not play any musical instrument.

They gave both groups four different auditory tests, and found that while musicians did not have any advantage over non-musical peers in being able to detect sounds as they grew steadily more quiet, they were better able to hear speech over background noise, detect short gaps in sound and detect differences in frequencies, and these gaps only widened with age.

For instance, by age 70, the average musician was able to understand speech in a noisy environment as well as an average 50-year-old non-musician.

“Being a musician may contribute to better hearing in old age by delaying some of the age-related changes in auditory processing in the brain,” said Benjamin Zendel, lead investigator for the study at the Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care in Toronto. He noted that the ability to hear a tone is not directly dependent on those brain circuits.

An earlier study, published in May online by PLoS One — a peer-reviewed, open-access resource from the Public Library of Science — also found that musical training can offset some of the memory deficits of aging.

Researchers at Northwestern University found that longtime musicians aged 45 to 65 bested non-musicians in the same age group in tests of auditory memory and the ability to hear speech in noisy environments.

The scientists tested 18 musicians who had started playing an instrument at age 9 or earlier and consistently played throughout their lives against 19 non-musicians.

Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern, said the experience of musicians at extracting meaningful sounds from a complex soundscape, and remembering sequences of sound, builds up hearing skills that seem to help offset declines that might otherwise occur with aging.

“The neural enhancements we see in musically-trained individuals are not just an amplifying or ‘volume knob’ effect,” Kraus said, but rather a result of brain connections that help individuals better process sound.

Finally, there’s the September report in the Archives of Neurology that found older adults with hearing loss appear to be more likely to develop dementia.

The study, part of a long-term project funded by the National Institute on Aging out of Johns Hopkins University, tracked 639 people aged 36 to 90 tested for hearing loss between 1990 and 1994.

Researchers found that by 2008, 58 of them had developed dementia, including 37 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. And those who were experiencing hearing loss at the start of the study were much more likely to develop dementia.

Specifically, the scientists found that for every 10 decibels of hearing loss, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease went up by 20 percent.

The lead author, Dr. Frank Lin, said it seems logical that the effects of hearing loss could lead to social isolation and mental strain and thus leave an individual more at risk for dementia, but said it’s also possible that hearing loss is a symptom of dementia. He’s trying to find out by studying whether older adults who wear hearing aids obtain any cognitive advantage.

“Unmanaged hearing loss can interrupt the cognitive processing of spoken language, exhaust cognitive reserve and lead to social isolation” no matter what other conditions may exist, said Sergi Kochkin, executive director of the Better Hearing Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington.

Other research suggests that people may devote extra mental resources trying to hear and process sound to such an extent that other aspects of functional memory are harmed.