Mild Hearing Loss Linked To Cognitive Decline, Study Finds

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Even Minor Hearing Loss Can Lead To Cognitive Decline, Study Finds

Image by Jacob Lund / iStock

Temperatures have dropped, and winter coats are no longer in storage, so if you're anything like us, Christmas music is already blasting through your noise-canceling headphones.

We're not trying to be grinches, but a recent study conducted by Columbia University might convince you to turn down the volume. 

A study published in JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery analyzed data from 6,451 adults who underwent hearing and cognitive testing. For every 10 decibels (dB) lost, cognitive function also declined. 

People in the early stages of hearing loss—just 10 dB below "perfect hearing"—showed the largest decrease in cognitive ability.

Research has previously linked hearing loss to cognitive decline, but the studies were performed only on adults with clinically diagnosed hearing loss (aka those who are unable to hear sounds below 25 dB). For reference, 25 dB includes a standard whisper or the sound of rustling leaves.

Justin S. Golub, M.D., leader of the study, said that hearing loss has been linked to social isolation, depression, cognitive decline, and even dementia. "Hearing loss is not benign," Golub said. "[It] should be treated. This study suggests, the earlier, the better." 

While the study found a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, it did not conclude why the two were related. "It's possible that people who don't hear well tend to socialize less and, as a result, they tend to have fewer stimulating conversations," Golub said. 

The National Institutes of Health are funding a study now to see if hearing aids can delay cognitive decline and hopefully prevent dementia. 

Helpful as they may be, hearing aids probably aren't at the top of your list this holiday season. If you're looking to unwrap something a little more exciting, our gift guide is a good place to start! 

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