Eyes, ears, and dementia risk

Updated: Nov. 15, 2023 at 5:36 PM CST
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ORLANDO, Fla. (WGEM) --- There are more than 55 million people in the world living with dementia. As researchers try to learn more about how to identify this disease earlier, they’ve found that your sense of sight and hearing may play a role.

Every three seconds, someone develops dementia. Catching the disease early is key. You can be prepared and maybe slow down its decline. Now – researchers say they may one day be able to predict the disease by looking at your eyes!

Cecelia Lee, MD, MS, Ophthalmologist at University of Washington School of Medicine says, “A lot of people often refer to the eye as the window to the body, and what it really is, is that the eye is the window to the brain.”

After studying data on more than 3,900 participants, Doctor Lee and her colleagues found that people with diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration had about a 40 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

“All of those three conditions affect a different part of the retina which is connected to the brain.”  Explains Doctor Lee.

Another recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that people with untreated visual impairments were significantly more likely to develop dementia.

And other research has suggested a link between hearing loss and dementia risk. In a new study published in the Lancet, researchers found giving older people hearing aids could cut the risk of cognitive decline in half. While more research is needed to learn exactly how seeing and hearing are linked to dementia, experts say keeping your eyes and your ears healthy may also benefit your brain.

Experts say regular eye exams are vital to catching any visual problems early on. The American Optometric Association recommends annual comprehensive eye exams for all adults over age 65.

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