It’s common knowledge that the older you get, the more likely you will experience sensory impairment like hearing and vision loss. In fact, one in three people ages 65 to 74 has hearing loss, and for those 75 and older, the number jumps to one in two, reports the National Institute on Aging. In addition, a 2016 study found that vision impairment affects approximately one in four people over age 80.
Not only can sensory impairment cause difficulty participating in events at the Easley Retirement Center, it can actually impact your cognitive health. We review the connection below.
The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss
Researchers at Johns Hopkins found a significant link between untreated hearing loss and dementia: “Compared with volunteers with normal hearing, those with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss had twofold, threefold, and fivefold, respectively, the risk of developing dementia over time. The more hearing loss they had, the higher their likelihood of developing the memory-robbing disease.”
The Effects of Untreated Vision Loss
In a 2021 study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging, the authors report: “A recent systematic review and metanalysis reported that vision impairment is associated with 2.4-fold greater odds of cognitive impairment in existing cross-sectional studies and 1.7-fold greater odds in longitudinal studies.”
The Effects of Dual Sensory Impairment
A research team at the University of Toronto found in a 2022 study: “For older adults with dual sensory impairment, the odds of cognitive impairment were eight-fold.”
Why the Connection?
There are a few hypotheses about why there’s such a strong connection between sensory impairment and cognitive decline:
- The common cause theory states there could be an underlying problem affecting your brain and your ears/eyes.
- The cognitive load theory says that when you can’t hear or see well, your brain works extra hard, depleting your cognitive resources.
- The cascade theory states losing your senses causes you to withdraw socially, which is a strong risk factor for dementia.
- The harbinger hypothesis says that you perform poorly on cognitive testing when you can’t hear or see well.
What You Can Do
There is good news! Treating sensory impairment can prevent or delay a diagnosis of cognitive decline. According to one 2019 study, the use of hearing aids is associated with a delayed diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other conditions.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call Elevate Audiology today.