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Hearing support group forms

The Longwood Speech, Hearing and Learning Center held an inaugural meeting for the Southside Hearing Loss Support Group on Friday, which touched on the possible correlation untreated hearing loss has with dementia.

The heavily-attended meeting had two presentations from Longwood University graduate students Gaby Edwards and Tyler Harris — the first of which explained research that explored a possible correlation between untreated hearing loss, dementia and a loss of brain size while the second explained research that cited a possible correlation of treated hearing loss with maintained brain size.

“People who have hearing loss that is not aided or (is) undiagnosed have a five times more likely chance of acquiring dementia,” Harris said.

The presentation included discussion of research from Dr. Frank Lin, of John Hopkins University Medical Center. According to Lin, more than two thirds of all adults who are older than 70 years old in the U.S. have a hearing impairment that interferes with their daily lives.

“Dr. Lin and his associates put together a research study and had 126 participants and 75 of them had normal hearing, or what we would consider normal, and then 51 had a hearing loss of what we call moderate hearing,” Edwards said. “…What he did was a 10-year study. Each year, each participant had a MRI, or a brain imaging test, done on them to see the changes done to their brain.”

She said he looked at the first year and then looked at the 10th year to see the differences in the grey matter in their brains. The research he did showed a more significant loss in brain size for those with the untreated hearing loss than those with normal hearing.

Harris said a reason for this could be social isolation from hearing loss, which causes the brain to work harder to understand what people around them are speaking about.

The support group meeting also included questions from participants.

“When we started Longwood Speech, Hearing and Learning services, we had a vision to try to address hearing loss in this community, that prior to us starting audiology here people had to drive to Lynchburg, Charlottesville or Richmond to get assistance,” said Dr. Lissa Power deFur, the director of Longwood Speech, Language, and Hearing Services. “Then one of the problems is, you know we got the audiology suite, we got (Clinical Audiologist Dr. Mani Aguilar), but that doesn’t solve the problem. Just getting your hearing tested and your hearing aids doesn’t take care of it.”

The next meeting, set for Oct. 20, will be centered on the topic, “What to expect from your hearing aid?”

Meetings are held at the Longwood Speech, Hearing and Learning Center, which is located at 315 W. Third St. in Farmville.