Loss of hearing or vision is often part of aging, but a new study suggests that losing function in both directions – it has to be both, not just one – would increase your risk of dementia and cognitive decline after a few years.
Both senses simultaneously
The study looked at 6,520 people between the ages of 58 and 101 . Visual and hearing impairment was determined by means of a questionnaire that asked about the use of glasses or hearing aids.
At the start of the study, 932 people had normal hearing and sight, 2,957 had hearing or visual impairments, and 2,631 said they had both impairments .
Dementia was more than twice as common in the group with both impairments at the beginning of the study. In that group, 201 people out of 2,631, or 8%, had dementia at the start of the study, compared with 2.4% with a sensory disability and 2.3% without a sensory disability.
The researchers assessed people’s thinking and memory skills every two years for six years using a test that includes recall and word recognition. They then looked at the relationship between having a hearing or visual impairment and dementia and having both impairments and dementia.
After adjusting for factors such as gender, education, and income, the researchers found that the group with hearing and visual impairment was twice as likely to develop dementia as the group with normal sensory function.