by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
On The Conversation, Thomas Littlejohns, an epidemiologist at Oxford, discusses his recent scientific publication about the link between hearing loss and dementia. This relationship is not new. The most common test for hearing loss is standard pure-tone threshold audiometry, but in his study Prof. Littlejohns used speech-in-noise testing to measure speech understanding. Speech in noise (SIN) hearing impairment is a very common problem, when people have difficulty following one conversation among many in a noise environment, but audiometry shows no significant hearing loss. This is called “hidden hearing loss” because it is not found on standard pure tone audiometry but the auditory damage is detected by more sensitive clinical measures.
Prof. Littlejohns found that SIN difficulty had the same correlation with developing dementia that hearing loss documented by pure tone audiometry did. His research also provides added support for the hypothesis that loss of hearing and communication causes dementia, and not for the reverse hypothesis, that somehow dementia causes hearing loss.
This report provides yet more support for the simple and inexpensive advice to protect your hearing from loud noise.
If something sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your hearing is at risk. Leave the noise environment, use hearing protection, or risk hearing loss and dementia later.