15 September 2020

Commission: Hearing loss is the largest risk factor for dementia

The Lancet Commission lists 12 risk factors for dementia. Untreated hearing loss is the largest single risk factor.

In a report on dementia prevention, intervention and care, the Lancet Commission mentions a list of 12 risk factors for dementia. The 2020 report is an updated report of the 2017 report, where the commission listed nine risk factors for dementia.

The original nine risk factors from the 2017 report are: less education, hypertension, hearing loss, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes and low social contact (social isolation).  

The three new risk factors are: excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and air pollution.

According to the Lancet Commission, the 12 risk factors can explain 40% of the cases of dementia. All 12 risk factors are potentially modifiable, e.g. hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids and hearing implants. For 60% of the cases of dementia, the risk is still unknown.

Hearing loss

In the report, untreated hearing loss accounts for 8%, a fifth, of the total risk factor of 40%. In the 2017 report, hearing loss accounted for 9%. Adding three new risk factors only reduces hearing loss’ share by 1%. Hearing loss is still the largest single risk factor.

In the report, the Lancet Commission writes that using hearing aids appears to reduce the excess risk from hearing loss. Therefore, the commission encourages the use of hearing aids for hearing loss and to reduce hearing loss by protecting of ears from excessive noise exposure.

The 12 risk factors

The Commissions 12 risk factors for dementia are:

  • Hearing loss: 8%
  • Less education: 7%
  • Smoking: 5%
  • Depression: 4%
  • Social isolation: 4%
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI): 3%
  • Physical inactivity: 2%
  • Hypertension: 2%
  • Air pollution: 2%
  • Obesity: 1%
  • Diabetes: 1%
  • Alcohol: 1%
  • In total: 40%

The report, “Dementia prevention, intervention and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission”, was published in The Lancet.

The report can be found here.

Source and picture: The Lancet

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