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When hearing goes, mental capacity often follows

Cause of declines difficult to pinpoint

Older people with hearing loss may suffer faster rates of mental decline. People who have hearing trouble suffered meaningful impairments in memory, attention and learning about three years earlier than people with normal hearing, a study published online January 21 in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals. 

The finding bolsters the idea that hearing loss can have serious consequences for the brain, says Patricia Tun of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., who studies aging. “I’m hoping it will be a real wake-up call in terms of realizing the importance of hearing.”

Compared with other senses, hearing is often overlooked, Tun says. “We are made to interact with language and to listen to each other, and it can have damaging effects if we don’t.”

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