25 May 2023

Hearing aids protect against the risk of dementia

People with hearing loss have a 1.4 times increased risk of developing dementia compared to people without hearing loss. But people who have a hearing loss and use hearing aids have no increased risk of dementia, a study finds.
Hearing aids protect against the risk of dementia

A large study has found that compared with people without hearing loss, people with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids had a 42% increased risk of all-cause dementia. For people with hearing loss who used hearing aids, the study found no increased risk of dementia. The positive association of hearing aid use was observed in all-cause dementia and cause-specific subtypes of dementia.

In the study, the attributable risk proportion of dementia for hearing loss was estimated to be 29.6%. Of the total association between hearing aid use and all-cause dementia, 1.5% was mediated by reducing social isolation, 2.3% by reducing loneliness and 7.1% by reducing depressed mood.

Among the participants in the study, 25.6% had a hearing loss. Of those with hearing loss, only 11.7% used hearing aids. The prevalence of hearing loss increased with age and was more common in men than in women.

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Hearing aids – a cost-effective treatment

“The evidence is building that hearing loss may be the most impactful modifiable risk factor for dementia in mid-life, but the effectiveness of hearing aid use on reducing the risk of dementia in the real world has remained unclear. Our study provides the best evidence to date to suggest that hearing aids could be a minimally invasive, cost-effective treatment to mitigate the potential impact of hearing loss on dementia.” said one of the researchers behind the study, Prof Dongshan Zhu, of Shandong University, China, according to The Guardian.

About the study

The study used data from the UK Biobank, a population-based cohort study, which recruited adults aged 40-69 years between 2006 and 2010 across 22 centres in England, Scotland and Wales and included 437,704 people.

Hearing loss and hearing aid use was self-reported. Dementia diagnoses were ascertained using hospital inpatient records.

Hearing aids reduces cognitive decline

In 2015, a large French study found that the use of hearing aids reduces cognitive decline. The study documented that the use of hearing aids almost eliminated cognitive decline.

In 2020, the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care suggested that hearing loss may be linked to about 8% of worldwide dementia cases.

The article, "Association between hearing aid use and all-cause and cause-specific dementia: an analysis of the UK Biobank cohort", was published in the journal the Lancet Public Health.

Sources: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov , https://www.thelancet.com , https://www.theguardian.com  and https://medicalxpress.com

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