New research from the University of Oxford has found that hearing loss is linked to an increased risk of dementia. The study, which involved over 82,000 people aged 60 and over, looked at participants’ ability to hear speech in noisy environments and grouped them into normal, insufficient and poor speech-in-noise hearing. Researchers found that over 11 years of follow-up, those with difficulty hearing speech in noisy environments were up to 91% more likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal speech-in-noise hearing.
Untreated Hearing Loss and Dementia
These findings come at a time where there is growing evidence that the risk of developing dementia can be reduced through the treatment of other pre-existing conditions. Several other studies have also pointed specifically to hearing loss as a key factor, with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) estimating that it may be responsible for up to 9% of dementia cases. A review from the Ear Foundation in 2019 found further links between the two conditions, concluding that over 60% of adults living with dementia will also have hearing impairment and over 90% of adults living with dementia in aged care will have hearing impairment.
While no studies have yet been able to identify exactly what causes the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss, many have pointed to the communication difficulties experienced by those with untreated hearing impairments. Difficulty hearing can make communicating confusing and frustrating for those affected by hearing loss; this often causes them to withdraw from conversations, leading to loneliness and fewer social interactions. The resulting social isolation has been associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2020), showing how crucial social connections and interactions are to maintaining cognitive health.
Identifying and Treating Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is often a gradual process, making it hard for many people to notice that there is an issue until their quality of hearing has deteriorated significantly. Some of the initial signs of a hearing impairment can be:
If you have noticed any changes to your hearing, we would recommend having your hearing checked by a qualified audiologist. Getting your hearing tested regularly (every two years) means that hearing loss can be identified and addressed early on, minimising its impact on your quality of life.
At House of Hearing, we offer free hearing tests to help you ensure that you are hearing at your best. As hearing experts for over 50 years, we are experienced in providing specialist audiology and aural care, in addition to our ENT nurse-led wax removal service. All of our audiologists are members of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (BSHAA) and each are also registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), giving you and your family the peace of mind that you will only be seen by a fully qualified registered clinician.
So, if you or a loved one has concerns about a hearing loss or blocked ear, call and make an appointment with the hearing experts on 0131 220 1220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.