Hearing Loss and Cognition
By Toni Lynn Davis, Executive Director Green Hill Inc.In a study by Dr. Frank Lin, MD, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University, it is stated that “the prevalence of dementia is projected to double every 20 years such that by 2050 more than 100 million people, or nearly 1 in 85 persons, will be affected worldwide”. Dr. Lin’s recent study on ‘hearing loss and incident dementia was executed to study if there is a causality between the onset of dementia due to the physiological and sociological ramifications of hearing loss. The results of his study showed that ‘the risk of incident all-cause dementia increased log linearly with the severity of baseline hearing loss.”
As the Director at Green Hill, I find the results of Dr. Lin’s study to be very interesting. Hearing loss and intervention is a common ailment of the aging process that we are charged with addressing. From first-hand experience, the staff and I recognize that elders who can hear are more engaged in the activities and social life at Green Hill. They appear more responsive and participatory in their own well-being and even show more interest in food.
At Green Hill, all elders have their hearing checked on intake and annually, hearing aids for those who require them are obtained and checked regularly. Elders are reminded daily to use their hearing aids so they don’t miss out on full participation and enjoyment of activities and relationships.
Does hearing loss really advance the onset of dementia physiologically? I leave the results of that study in the hand of the experts but I have noticed that the elders who can hear socialize more and experience less isolation and depression than those who don’t hear well, and it seems that they retain their cognitive functions longer as well. In an article in the New York Times by Kathrine Bouton, she states that in the work of John T. Cacioppo, Director of the Social Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Chicago, says studies have shown that “perceived isolation, or loneliness, is a more important predictor of a variety of adverse health outcomes than is objective social isolation.”
Our staff is trained to make sure that whether an elder suffers from hearing loss or not that they are engaged daily on a one-on-one basis, encouraged to participate in activities and spend time with others, are stimulated with music, arts and crafts, and physical tasks and exercise. We also hold weekly discussion groups on current events.
We also have installed a hearing loop system in our auditorium, in the living room and nursing unit in our Legacy building. The hearing loop system or Induction Loop System gives elders access to perfect audio perception without ever having to remove or adjust their hearing aids. The system transmits audio signals directly to their hearing aid, and broadcasts sound that is customized to their ears only. It maximizes the effectiveness of an elder’s hearing aid during announcements, presentations, activities, movie nights, concerts and more.
At Green Hill, we keep a close eye on our elder’s quality of life as our main priority and the most proactive approach to stave off depression and the onset of elder dementia. Keeping active and engaged in the Green Hill community and addressing the issue of hearing challenges so they may do so has proven to be an effective tool in keeping the spirits up of our elders and our staff.
Lin FR, Metter EJ, O’Brien RJ, Resnick SM, Zonderman A, Ferrucci L. Hearing loss and incident dementia. Arch Neurol. 2011 Feb;68(2):214-20.