Previous research has linked both hearing impairment and vision impairment to an increased chance of developing dementia. A new study has found that this risk is significantly higher for individuals suffering from both conditions.
About the Study
The study, called “Dual Sensory Impairment in Older Adults and Risk of Dementia from the GEM Study,” was published last month in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.
While previous research found individual connections between hearing impairment and visual impairment with the onset of dementia, this study examined their combined effects. The authors refer to the combination of conditions as “dual sensory impairment” (DSI).
“Although most prior studies have focused on impairments in hearing and vision individually, the impact of having combined hearing and visual impairment, or dual sensory impairment (DSI), on dementia risk is unclear,” the authors explained.
It is estimated that among adults ages 70 and older, 33 percent experience hearing loss and 18 percent experience vision loss. Both of these conditions tend to worsen with age, which is why researchers believe a correlation exists between the advancement of these afflictions and loss of functionality and mortality.
There are two leading theories about this:
- One theory is that both hearing and vision loss result from similar physical processes that also cause dementia.
- The other theory is that hearing and vision loss lead to social isolation, depression and physical inactivity, which can all lead to dementia.
What the Data Shows
Researchers studied data from a total of 2,051 participants. Of these, 104 had DSI. Compared to participants without vision or hearing loss, those with DSI were more likely to be male and describe themselves as smokers and drinkers.
Overall, researchers found that:
- 14.3% of those without any hearing or vision loss developed dementia.
- 16.9% of those with a single impairment developed dementia.
- 28.8% of those with DSI developed dementia.
This shows that people with both hearing and vision loss are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia than those without.
For more information about the risks of untreated hearing loss or to schedule a hearing test, call Eastern Oklahoma ENT today.