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Study shows the added impact of hearing loss

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The impact of hearing loss is far more wide-reaching than many people often think and it's not a just a case of things suddenly becoming quieter or more muffled.

It can have a knock-on effect when it comes to confidence and other areas of people's lives, which is why it's essential to call in for a free hearing test as soon as you think you may have the condition.

Now, a new survey published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal has suggested that the brains of those with hearing loss could decline more rapidly than those without.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US began their experiment by giving hearing and mental ability tests to 1,984 people and then proceeded to administer follow-up exams for the next six years.

What they found was that, while results dropped over the six years, people with hearing loss saw their performance deteriorate 40 per cent more quickly than the others.

Researcher Dr Frank Lin told the BBC that this could either be down to these people being more socially withdrawn than their counterparts or the fact that the brain is required to use more resources for interpreting sound.

Dr Lin explained: "The major public health question is if we treat hearing loss can we delay cognitive decline or dementia?

"That's what we all care about, but the answer is we just don't know."

What it suggests is that the treatment of hearing loss could have significant advantages for the halting of mental and cognitive decline in people's older years.

It's worth remembering that there is still much work to be done on the issue as Dr Eric Karran, from the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, points out.

"Potential social isolation caused by hearing impairment is a more likely explanation for this link than there being a shared disease process, although this needs further investigation, this will be an interesting area to study further," he said.

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