The association between hearing loss and dementia was just one of the risk factors mentioned in the prestigious Lancet, a British scientific journal The Express reports. The Lancet Commission on dementia prevention mentioned nine risk factors in total which make up more than a third of the total risk factors associated with dementia. The others include high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, diabetes, depression, physical inactivity and social isolation. The last three of these are risk factors with untreated hearing loss so it makes sense they’re on the list.
The association between hearing loss and dementia has been slowly getting more attention in the press and in scientific circles. Regular readers of the ear blog will already know that cutting-edge science has only recently begun researching this area to establish a direct link between the two.
The British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association were quoted in the port. “To our knowledge, no systematic reviews have been done for hearing loss and incident dementia”.
The report continues, “recognition of hearing loss as a risk factor for dementia is relatively new and has not been included in previous calculations of PAF [population attributable fractions], nor has it been a priority in the management of those at risk of cognitive impairment”.
As mentioned here before, the possible reasons why hearing loss could cause dementia are not yet understood. Plenty more research is needed before a direct link is made. Possible reasons include hearing loss burdening sufferers with “cognitive load”. This is where their brains expend too much “brain power” trying to hear what others are saying. The other parts of their brains begin to fall out of use. Another reason could be to do with the social isolation that hearing loss causes. The subsequent decline in the parts of the brain associated with memory recall, speech and problem-solving.
As with anything, prevention is always better than cure and hearing aids may provide an effective way of managing one of the risk factors of dementia. Dr Frank Lin of John Hopkins University offers the best hope of establishing that link. His work has been featured in The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Mirror and The Daily Mail. “Treating hearing loss could potentially help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia” he has said in the past. His 2013 study estimated that those with hearing loss suffered 40-50% more cognitive decline than those without hearing loss. Dr Lin’s current research will take some years to complete. It may also go some way to cracking the link between hearing loss and dementia.
Dementia affects nearly a million people in Britain with that figure expected to triple in 2050.
If you have trouble hearing people or have to turn the television up loud just to hear what’s being said, get in touch with us here at Veritas hearing. We’re more than happy to help.