Could even mild hearing loss be linked to worse memory and thinking?

14 November 2019

JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery: Association of Subclinical Hearing Loss With Cognitive Performance
Researchers in the US have found that mild hearing loss, below the level deemed clinically relevant, is linked with poorer memory and thinking skills. The scientific publication JAMA report the findings today (Thursday 14 November).

What tests did researchers do?

Using information collected in two US studies, researchers looked at the relationship between hearing and people’s memory and thinking skills.

They measured 6,451 study participants’ hearing ability using a key test used to measure hearing sensitivity. The researchers then carried out a number of tests to measure memory and thinking in the study participants.

What did the researchers find?

They found that poorer performance on hearing tests was related to poorer performance on tests of memory and thinking. The study suggests that even mild hearing loss, which doctors wouldn’t normally consider to be a problem, is linked to worse memory and thinking skills.

Our expert’s opinion on the research

Dr James Connell, Research Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“In recent years researchers have shown that clinically diagnosed hearing loss is a potentially important risk factor for dementia, but this study links very subtle hearing problems with poorer memory and thinking skills.

“Dementia is a complex condition and while age and genetics play an important role in our risk, lifestyle factors within our control can help to keep our brains healthy. The best evidence suggests that staying socially, mentally and physically active, eating a healthy balanced diet, not smoking, drinking only within the recommended limits and keeping weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in check are all good ways to support a healthy brain as we age.”