Hearing loss: One of 12 modifiable factors for dementia

Hearing loss, apart from impacting communication, has been shown to have other detrimental effects on our physical and mental wellbeing.


It is viewed as one of the major causes of poor quality of life for older members in our society and is now linked as a contributing factor to cognitive decline. 


The most recent studies indicate the growing concern over the link between hearing loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.


We've created this free infographic to summarise the research but feel free to read on below. 

Latest research


Over the past two years, two reports, collating the research have investigated the links between hearing loss and dementia. The Lancet Commission 2020* report discussed recent findings and the twelve modifiable risk factors linked to dementia, of which hearing loss is highlighted.


Prevention of dementia, by treating hearing loss with hearing aids (along with other modifiable risk factors), can be achieved as this helps to increase and maintain cognitive brain function.


This year an analysis of fourteen studies on hearing loss and dementia*  was released, confirming that hearing loss could be an independent risk factor of dementia in the adult population. There also appears to be a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is encouraged in this area to investigate if hearing loss does play a part in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.


A further 2021 paper* indicates that people with difficulty hearing speech in noise, have an increased risk of developing dementia. The paper discusses the modifiable risk factors highlighted in the Lancet report, arguing that hearing loss should be targeted in the aim of dementia delay and prevention.


This is because effective solutions such as hearing aids, are widely available.


Reducing the risk: 12 modifiable factors


Hearing loss is the risk factor that can have the greatest impact on delaying dementia. The Lancet report indicates that if you are able to modify all twelve risk factors, throughout life, dementia could be prevented or delayed in up to 40% of cases.


There is still a 60% portion of unknown risk for dementia, but for now the research is indicating the following:


Modifiable risk factor in early life: 


  • Less education (7% impact)

Modifiable risk factor in Midlife:

 

  • Hearing loss (8% impact)
  • Traumatic brain injury (3% impact)
  • Hypertension (2% impact)
  • Alcohol >21 units per week (1% impact)
  • Obesity (1% impact)

Modifiable risk factor in Later life:

 

  • Smoking (5% impact)
  • Depression (4% impact)
  • Social isolation (4% impact)
  • Physical inactivity (2% impact)
  • Air pollution (2% impact)
  • Diabetes (1% impact)

Evidence supports the modifiable risk factors for dementia. Studies show the impact of modifying hearing loss with hearing aids is significant in delaying the onset of dementia.


This along with other modifiable factors can significantly increase your chances of delaying or even preventing dementia.

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Sources*

https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(20)30367-6/fulltext

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2021.695117/full

https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/alz.12416