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[2018/07/12]International Symposium on Hearing Impairment Sharing New Finding on Hearing Impairment and Dementia in Old Age

NYMU and TVGH host international symposium on hearing impairment, from left: Academia Sinica Associate Researcher Tsao, TVGH Doctor Huang, NYMU Vice President Yang, President Kou, JHU Professor Lin, NTU Vice Professor Xiao and NYMU Aging and Health Research Center Director Chen.


With Taiwan developing into an ageing society, National Yang-Ming University and Taipei Veterans General Hospital invited Johns Hopkins Cochlear and Public Health Center Director, Professor Lin, to share his experiences in research and clinical practice. According to his research, slight to mild to severe hearing-impaired patients, in comparison to normal hearing individuals, have 2-fold, 3-fold and 5-fold higher chances, respectively, of suffering from dementia.


The Ministry of Interior has estimated that at the end of 2017 there were around 93,990 people in Taiwan who were older than 65 years of age and were suffering from hearing impairment. This makes up around 77% of all hearing-impaired patients. Compared to the results from 2000, when there were 51,993 age-related hearing impaired individuals, this is an increase in patient numbers of around 40,000. As Taiwan's society ages, the estimated number of hearing impaired older patients can only increase further in the future.


Individuals who are not hearing impaired people have a hearing level of between 0 and 25 decibels and at this level they can hear soft whispers. If one can only hear sounds above the 25 decibel level, they have a slight hearing impairment. If they can only hear sounds greater than the 70 decibel level, this means they cannot hear sounds at a normal talking voice level, which is around 60 decibel. Such a patient will not be able to hear normal conversations and is suffering from a severe hearing impairment.


Johns Hopkins University Professor Lin points out that according to his research,

hearing impaired patients have a higher chance of suffering from dementia.


Professor Lin has tracked more 639 adult subjects over a course of 10 years for his research. He found that within these 639 subjects, 58 people were suffering from dementia, while at the same time 184 people had various levels of hearing impairment. On statistical analysis, hearing damage was found to increase the risk of all types of dementia. Hearing impairment creates the cognitive load on the brain because the brain requires more time and energy to process the sounds that are collected when there is hearing impairment. This can cause deterioration in brain functionality and this can even lead to shrinking of the brain. In addition, hearing impairment can decrease the rate of communication with other people and this affect normal socialization, which may result in a degradation of intelligence.


Professor Lin suggested that individuals who are aged 65 years of age or more and suspect they have a hearing problem should go to a hospital and get a simple hearing evaluation. If it is found they have a hearing impairment, they can then use artificial hearing aids to help improve hearing and improve the chance that dementia will not develop.


This symposium was hosted by Vice President Yang and Director Chen of Aging and Health Research Center. We also invited Dr. Huang from the Taipei Veterans General Hospital Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Associate Professor Xiao from the National Taiwan University Graduate Institute of Clinical Pharmacy and associate researcher Dr. Tsao from the Academia Sinica Research Center for Information Technology Innovation to share thoughts and ideas about the treatments and developments needed in an ageing society in order to help those with a hearing impairment.