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Hearing loss and dementia

Researchers have discovered potential links between hearing loss and dementia.
Jun, 29, 2021

The broader life impacts of hearing loss are many and often debilitating. Researchers have been able to establish that people suffering from hearing loss are at an increased risk of developing cognitive problems, including dementia, however there are hearing loss treatments that may help mitigate this risk.

Please note, hearing loss isn’t a guarantee of developing dementia. It is important to maintain the health of one’s hearing to sustain overall quality of life, which may help alleviate dementia from hearing loss.

Hearing loss and dementia statistics

The risk of developing dementia has been linked with factors ranging from low mental and social stimulation, physical inactivity and depression, to smoking and poor diet. In addition, according to research findings at John Hopkins University, people with severe hearing loss might be five times more likely to develop dementia. 

639 participants were monitored for signs of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. None initially showed any symptoms of cognitive issues, but 125 had “mild” hearing loss, 53 had “moderate” hearing loss and 6 had “severe” hearing loss.

After approximately 12 years, a report found:

  • 58 of the 639 had been diagnosed with dementia
  • Those who had hearing loss from the beginning of the study had a greater chance of developing dementia - with the greater the hearing the loss, the greater the risk
  • The chance of developing dementia increased by 20% for every 10dB of hearing that was lost

Link between hearing loss and dementia

Research is still ongoing to determine a precise cause for this association - but scientists have a number of theories.

  • The social isolation and depression sometimes experienced by those with hearing loss may, in turn, increase the risk of dementia
  • The need to cope with hearing loss may bring an additional strain on the person’s mental resources, resulting in diminished capability for memory and understanding, thereby resulting in cognitive problems
  • The neurological process that causes dementia might simply be the same process that causes age-related hearing loss

What you can do about it

Since hearing loss may have a serious impact on your mental health, it emphasises the importance of getting regular ear examinations and taking immediate action if you encounter any change or decline in your hearing ability. 

And there have been scientific arguments made that treating hearing loss may actively help sustain your brain’s cognitive ability. 

In 2017, Professor Gill Livingston and her colleagues from University College London published an article in The Lancet that summarised 13 studies that examined the association between hearing loss and dementia. 

They reported that while midlife hearing loss is a significant risk factor - it’s also a potentially modifiable one. In addition, it argued that management of hearing loss might help delay or prevent dementia cases.


Better hearing for a better future

If you, or a friend or family member, perceives that you’re having difficulty hearing - we strongly recommend you book a no obligation free hearing test at Amplifon.

This “difficulty” can manifest itself in various ways. You might be having trouble hearing normal conversations, have to keep asking people to repeat themselves, or find yourself frequently turning the TV up. It’s important to identify these signs early, so a diagnosis can be made and the appropriate steps to help you can begin. 

From here, an audiologist will be able to advise you on the most appropriate solution. 

This might take the form of a hearing aid - small, discrete and comfortable devices which incorporate the latest technology to help you get the listening experience you need and deserve. At Amplifon, these include almost invisible styles, fitting either inside the ear or with a snug fit behind the ear. We also have devices that connect wirelessly to your smartphone.

Healthy practices

Whatever the option you choose, these hearing devices will help you to receive the auditory information that’s important to keep the brain active and healthy. While also practising strategies such as facing the person you are in conversation with and lowering background noise as much as possible, you’ll be able to enjoy social interaction - and the mental stimulation that comes with it - as normal.  

This combined with an active lifestyle - physically as well as socially and mentally - is an important preventative measure against the risk of dementia. We recommend you undertake regular exercise, maintain a good diet, pursue activities that challenge your brain (such as learning new things) and enjoy regular social contact. 

Concerned about your hearing and links to dementia? Talk to an audiologist

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