Hearing Loss in Dogs Linked to Dementia

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A new study from North Carolina State University explores the link between hearing loss and dementia in geriatric dogs. The work could help treat aging dogs and understand the relationship between sensory loss and cognitive function in dogs.

“In humans, we know that age-related hearing loss affects one-third of people over 65,” says Natasha Olby, Dr. Cady M. Guessing and stay m. Davidson, Distinguished Chair in Gerontology at North Carolina State. University and corresponding author of the study.

“We also know that the rate of cognitive decline is about 30-40% faster in people with age-related hearing loss and that hearing loss contributes more to dementia risk than other factors such as high blood pressure or obesity. But we do not understand if the same is true for dogs.

In the study, Olby and his colleagues evaluated 39 senior or geriatric dogs. Hearing and cognitive tests were performed on each dog, and their owners were asked to complete two commonly used questionnaires – one focusing on cognitive abilities and the other on quality of life. Cognitive tests, questionnaire scores and age were compared between the listening groups.

The “average” dog can hear tones at 50 decibels (dB) without difficulty. Among the study team, 19 dogs could hear at 50 dB, 12 at 70 dB and eight at 90 dB (roughly equivalent to the noise emitted by jet planes taking off). The average age of the dogs in each group was 12, 13 and 14 years, respectively.

When the researchers compared the hearing scores with responses to the owners’ quality of life questionnaire, they found that scores related to vitality and companionship decreased significantly.

Similarly, cognitive questionnaire scores classified all eight dogs in the 90 dB group as abnormal, compared to nine of 12 in the 70 dB group and eight of 19 in the 50 dB group. The cognitive test results were similar: as hearing decreased, the dog’s ability to perform tasks also decreased.

“Hearing loss is one of the strongest predictors of dementia in people,” says Olby. “Hearing loss in the elderly also contributes to this, as sensory decline contributes to decreased motor skills. Thus, the relationship between physical and neurological decline is clear to humans.

“This study indicates that the same connection is at work in aging dogs. But since we can potentially treat hearing loss in dogs, we may be able to reduce some of these other problems. By measuring neurological and physiological changes in older dogs, we are not only improving our ability to identify and treat these problems in our pets, we are also a model for improving our understanding of similar problems in humans. do too.

appears in the study Journal of Veterinary Internal MedicineMargaret Gruen, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at NC State, is co-lead author of the book.

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material provided by North Carolina State UniversityOriginal written by Tracy Peake. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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