Researchers found that hearing loss, hospitalizations, and decreases in verbal fluency are associated with cognitive decline. These findings were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in London earlier this month.
A University of Wisconsin study that included 783 middle-aged adults in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention (WRAP)—a registry of adults with a maternal history of Alzheimer's disease—found that 9.2 percent of the participants reported having hearing loss at baseline. These participants performed worse on cognitive tests four years after baseline assessment than those who did not report any hearing loss. They also had more than doubled risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in five years. Based on this prospective cohort study, researchers concluded that hearing loss may not only be a risk factor for MCI, but its identification and treatment may also help detect and manage MCI earlier, thereby reducing future cases of Alzheimer's.
The study, entitled "Self-Reported Hearing Loss, Cognitive Performance, and Risk of MCI: Findings from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention," was presented last July 17.
In another University of Wisconsin study, researchers found that changes in speech such as increases in the use of non-specific language (more pronouns), hesitations, and fillers were associated with early onset of MCI. In this study, researchers analyzed two speech samples taken two years apart from 264 middle-aged adults enrolled in the WRAP. Those who had early MCI were found to have reduced verbal fluency that declined faster based on the samples collected.
Other risk factors of cognitive impairment were also discussed at AAIC, including those posed by unplanned visits to emergency units. Bryan James, PhD, of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center explained that emergency or urgent hospital visits, as opposed to planned visits, are associated with significant acceleration (about 60 percent) of mental decline in older adults.
Author information: Noah Glenn