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HHS HealthBeat (February 14, 2013)

Losing hearing and thinking

Man sitting and thinking

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Get Your Hearing Checked

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

A study links hearing loss in older people with reduced ability to think and remember things. Researchers base this on a look at six years of data on about 2,000 people with an average age of 77. At the Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health, researcher Frank Lin:

“People with hearing loss, compared to those with normal hearing, had about a 30 to 40 percent faster rate of decline on these thinking and memory abilities.”

The study couldn’t tell why, but Lin has a couple of ideas. One is that the brain has to work harder at understanding because of hearing loss. Another is that hearing loss tends to reduce the social interaction that can help to keep the mind sharp.

The study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

Last revised: March 20, 2013