Journal of Alzheimer's Disease Reports
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Evidence suggests that hearing loss (HL), even at mild levels, increases the long-term risk of cognitive decline and incident dementia. Hearing loss is one of the modifiable risk factors for dementia, with approximately 4 million of the 50 million cases of dementia worldwide possibly attributed to untreated HL. This paper describes four possible mechanisms that have been suggested for the relationship between age-related hearing loss (ARHL) and Alzheimer's disease (AD), which is the most common form of dementia. The first mechanism suggests mitochondrial dysfunction and altered signal pathways due to aging as a possible link between ARHL and AD. The second mechanism proposes that sensory degradation in hearing impaired people could explain the relationship between ARHL and AD. The occupation of cognitive resource (third) mechanism indicates that the association between ARHL and AD is a result of increased cognitive processing that is required to compensate for the degraded sensory input. The fourth mechanism is an expansion of the third mechanism, i.e., the function and structure interaction involves both cognitive resource occupation (neural activity) and AD pathology as the link between ARHL and AD. Exploring the specific mechanisms that provide the link between ARHL and AD has the potential to lead to innovative ideas for the diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of AD. This paper also provides insight into the current evidence for the use of hearing treatments as a possible treatment/prevention for AD, and if auditory assessments could provide an avenue for early detection of cognitive impairment associated with AD.
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