Loud Noise = Dementia?


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            Our generation clearly loves their music loud.  If you've ever been to a concert or anywhere near an amplifier the sound doesn't seem like it could be any louder.  Why do we think this is fun?  For some reason it seems like our generation loves things that are bad and this is definitely one that people seem to overlook.  While the majority of people have seemed to care less about how well they can hear, recent studies have stated possible connections between hearing loss leading to dementia.

            Frank Lin M.D. is an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University.  He conducted several studies that showed links between hearing and different cognitive problems, the most severe being dementia.  This year him and his colleagues tracked cognitive abilities "of nearly 2,000 older adults whose average age was 77."  Six years later, participants with hearing loss severe enough to interfere during conversation were 24 percent more likely to have seen their cognitive abilities lessen.  Overall, the researchers concluded that hearing loss sped up "age-related cognitive decline." 

            A second study Lin was involved in was on 639 people, with a quarter of them having some hearing loss at the beginning of the study and none with dementia.  They were followed and examined every one to two years and after sixteen years, 58 of the participants developed dementia.  They linked the people with hearing loss in the beginning of the study to be more likely to develop dementia.  They also made the correlation that the worse a persons hearing was in the beginning, the more likely they were to get dementia. (i.e. someone with severe hearing loss was twice as likely as someone with moderate hearing loss).  Lin also stated that they took various third variables into consideration including: diabetes, high blood pressure, age, sex and race. 

            Although this claim seems to be a widely accepted theory, there are various things wrong with both studies here.  The first one only consists of older adults, who are already more likely to get dementia than someone who is younger.  Secondly, they never claimed to rule out any third variables in the first study.  The second study was a little more precise, but had several flaws.  They stated that a quarter of participants started with hearing loss and 58 ended with dementia.  This would conclude that only 9 percent of them ended up with dementia and 25 percent had hearing problems.  This means there's only a possible 16 percent that the hearing loss lead to dementia.  When it's written that way, I don't believe it sounds as convincing.  If you still believe these studies were well conducted, realize they never took into account any family medical history and the likeliness of the disease without hearing loss.  This could result in a major file drawer problem.

            There are various forms of dementia that someone that obtain, Alzheimer's is the most common.  It accounts for sixty percent of all people with dementia.  The first study can be ruled out completely because of the median age because it's stated that 25 percent of people 85 or older alone have Alzheimer's just from aging.  The second study can be questioned with family history.  As of now, the genetic research shows that in the 19th chromosomes passed from our parents, there are certain types that can either increase our risks of dementia or protect us from it.  So, who is to say that maybe even all the participants in the study had these genes?  What do you think?

hearing loss.jpg
(4)

 

 

 

(1) http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-07-2013/hearing-loss-linked-to-dementia.html

(2) http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_and_dementia_linked_in_study

(3) http://www.fightdementia.org.au/understanding-dementia/dementia--heredity.aspx

(4) http://resources2.news.com.au/images/2013/08/17/1226698/796354-hearing-loss.jpg

2 Comments

It is quite surprising to see how much dementia has grown in our society in the past few years. I recently was reading the news and found this article which said that by 2050 more than 100 million will be suffering from dementia. Unfortunately, Alzheimer's runs in my family and that article says that 44 million people with Alzheimer's develop dementia. Hopefully science will figure some type of better treatment or cure soon because I am always exposed to loud noise...

In the one article I read about the relation between hearing loss and dementia they talked about people taking hearing loss more seriously and following it with more extensive care for hearing loss rather than waiting for the outcome of dementia. If they haven't figured more out about dementia they will be able to treat hearing loss more effeciently by the time we're that old so I'm sure things will be better for our generation! Just for a little positive reinforcement haha.

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