Linking Cerebrovascular Dysfunction to Age-Related Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease—Are Systemic Approaches for Diagnosis and Therapy Required?
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia in the elderly, is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with neurovascular dysfunction, cognitive decline, and the accumulation of amyloid β peptide (Aβ) in the brain and tau-related lesions in neurons termed neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). Aβ deposits and NFT formation are the central pathological hallmarks in AD brains, and the majority of AD cases have been shown to exhibit a complex combination of systemic comorbidities. While AD is the foremost common cause of dementia in the elderly, age-related hearing loss (ARHL) is the most predominant sensory deficit in the elderly. During aging, chronic inflammation and resulting endothelial dysfunction have been described and might be key contributors to AD; we discuss an intriguing possible link between inner ear strial microvascular pathology and blood–brain barrier pathology and present ARHL as a potentially modifiable and treatable risk factor for AD development. We present compelling evidence that ARHL might well be seen as an important risk factor in AD development: progressive hearing impairment, leading to social isolation, and its comorbidities, such as frailty, falls, and late-onset depression, link ARHL with cognitive decline and increased risk of dementia, rendering it tempting to speculate that ARHL might be a potential common molecular and pathological trigger for AD. Additionally, one could speculate that amyloid-beta might damage the blood–labyrinth barrier as it does to the blood–brain barrier, leading to ARHL pathology. Finally, there are options for the treatment of ARHL by targeted neurotrophic factor supplementation to the cochlea to improve cognitive outcomes; they can also prevent AD development and AD-related comorbidity in the future.