Did you know hearing loss is the number one modifiable risk factor for dementia?1 Did you also know that a survey in 2021, ‘risk of dementia’ was ranked as the greatest worry for the future2?
The mechanisms underlying the association between hearing loss and dementia involve four possible dynamics3. These include:
- Hearing loss leads to social withdrawal, which means lacking stimulation that sustains brain health.
- With hearing loss there is increased cognitive load; that is, greater cognitive energy is required to process what others are saying or other auditory input, reducing the brain’s capacity to engage in other cognitive tasks.
- Aging contributes to hearing loss.
- Hearing loss initiates and/or augments the brain pathology for dementia.
Observational studies have suggested that treating hearing loss may reduce cognitive decline1. Further research in the benefits of using hearing aids to improve cognition, indicated a 48% cognitive improvement in people with high risk of dementia4. Additionally, research has shown that hearing aids do reduce dementia risk for various dementia subtypes5.
Hearing loss, the invisible impairment, is often neglected in the health care field. It has been mistakenly thought of as simply part of aging, affecting only older people. Poor hearing and ear health can occur at any age. Similarly, did you know that dementia can also happen at any age6?
Let’s be pro-active about all aspects of our health, including hearing health. There are now better and more accessible treatments for a wider range of hearing problems. Research also shows that addressing your hearing problems enriches communication, enhances your quality of life, and bolsters cognitive performance.7,8
- Livingston, G., Huntley, J., Sommerlad, A., Ames, D., Ballard, C., & Banerjee, S. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. Lancet. 2020;396(10248):413-446. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30367-6
- Hearing Loss Association of America. (2021). Voice of the patient report: living with sensorineural hearing loss. https://www.hearingloss.org/wp-content/uploads/hlaa-vop-report.pdf
- Blustein, J., Weinstein, B.E., & Chodosh, J. (2022). Messaging Clearly and Effectively About Hearing Loss and Increased Dementia Risk. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 148(3):207. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaoto.2021.3010
- Lin, F. R., Pike, J. R., Albert, M. S., Arnold, M., Burgard, S., Chisolm, T., Couper, D., Deal, J. A., Goman, A. M., Glynn, N. W., Gmelin, T., Gravens-Mueller, L., Hayden, K. M., Huang, A. R., Knopman, D., Mitchell, C. M., Mosley, T., Pankow, J. S., Reed, N. S., Sanchez, V., … ACHIEVE Collaborative Research Group (2023). Hearing intervention versus health education control to reduce cognitive decline in older adults with hearing loss in the USA (ACHIEVE): a multicentre, randomised controlled trial. Lancet. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(23)01406-x
- Jiang, F., Mishra, S.R., Shrestha, N., Ozaki, A., Virani, S.S., Bright, S., Kupper, H., Zhou, S., & Zhu, D. (2023). Association between hearing aid use and all-cause and cause-specific dementia: an analysis of the UK Biobank cohort. Lancet Public Health. 8(5):e329-e338. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(23)00048-8
- Dementia Australia. (n.d.). Types of dementia in younger people. https://yod.dementia.org.au/about-younger-onset-dementia/types-of-dementia-in-younger-people
- Ferguson, M.A., Kitterick, P.T., Chong, L., Edmonson-Jones, M., Barker, F, & Hoare, D.J. (2017). Hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 9(9):CD012023. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd012023.pub2
- Carasek, N., Lamounier, P., Maldi, I.G., Bernades, M.N.D., Ramos, H.V.L., Costa, C.C., & Bahmad, F. (2022). Is there benefit from the use of cochlear implants and hearing aids in cognition for older adults? a systematic review. Front Epidemiol. (2) https://doi.org/10.3389/fepid.2022.934750