Hearing loss as well as declining vision is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, according to studies reported at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019 in Los Angeles.
While declines in hearing and vision have each been linked to Alzheimer’s in the past, a decline in both senses actually increases the risks. This can happen even if the impairment to both senses is minor.
Hearing: The Link To Alzheimer’s
In one study just released, researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle — explored the connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s in senior citizens. More than 2,000 seniors, age 75 and older, were tested. These participants were cognitively healthy at the start of study, and were followed for seven consecutive years.
Results showed that seniors who were either visually or hearing impaired had an 11 percent increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. But for seniors suffering from both hearing and vision loss, having both hearing and vision loss, the risk increased to an incredible 86 percent!
The researchers suggest that treatment of sensory impairments could reduce the risk of onset dementia and Alzheimer’s in senior citizens.
In the second study at UC, San Francisco, 1,810 seniors ages 70 to 79 were tested on hearing and vision. They were free of Alzheimer’s at the start of the study.
These seniors were followed for the next ten years. The results showed a higher risk and incidence for Alzheimer’s in seniors suffering from a combined hearing and vision loss.
Of particular interest, these researchers found even mild sensory loss is strongly linked to dementia risk.
Indeed, this combination of mild hearing and vision loss did increase the Alzheimer’s risk and faster rates of cognitive decline.
Researchers believe that ocular and vision loss in seniors —even very slight, may reduce stimulation of the brain. This reduced stimulation can increase the risks for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Therefore, sensory losses in seniors, such as ocular and vision decline may signal cognitive impairment. Screening for and treating these sensory declines may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and loss of cognitive abilities.
While there is no current cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia; nevertheless it’s important that our seniors live a good quality of life.