Hearing loss is linked to a higher risk of dementia, new research concludes.
Older people with severe hearing loss are at a 54% greater risk of experiencing cognitive decline.
The study included 10,107 men — average age 62 — who were followed over eight years.
All were asked standard questions about their thinking and reasoning skills every four years.
The results showed that those with mild hearing loss were at a 30% higher risk of cognitive decline, while moderate hearing loss was linked to a 43% higher risk.
Dr Sharon Curhan, the study’s first author, said:
“Dementia is a substantial public health challenge that continues to grow.
There is no cure, and effective treatments to prevent progression or reverse the course of dementia are lacking.
Our findings show that hearing loss is associated with new onset of subjective cognitive concerns which may be indicative of early stage changes in cognition.
These findings may help identify individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline.”
The researchers checked if hearing aids made any difference, but their findings were inconclusive, suggesting their influence is modest at best.
Dr Curhan said:
“Whether there is a temporal association between hearing loss and cognitive decline and whether this relation is causal remains unclear.
We plan to conduct further longitudinal studies of the relation of hearing loss and cognition in women and in younger populations, which will be informative.”
The study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia (Curhan et al., 2019).