older womanHearing loss among older adults appears to be associated with faster cognitive decline than people without hearing loss, researchers found, in a report published in the Los Angeles Times.

The study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that, on average, individuals with hearing loss would require 7.7 years to decline by the five points on a commonly accepted cognitive impairment scale, compared with 10.9 years for people with normal hearing.

The prevalence of dementia worldwide is expected to double in 20 years, so the efforts to understand what leads to cognitive decline are important, said the authors led by Dr. Frank Lin of the Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health.

The authors studied 1,984 older adults, with an average age about 77. A total of 1,162 individuals with baseline hearing loss had annual rates of decline in test scores that measured global and executive function that were 41% and 32% greater, respectively, than those among individuals with normal hearing.

“Our results demonstrate that hearing loss is independently associated with accelerated cognitive decline and incident cognitive impairment in community-dwelling older adults,” the authors wrote.