Hearing loss has been found to contribute to nearly 8% of dementia cases. A new study published in The Lancet found that using hearing aids greatly reduces the risk of developing dementia in people with hearing loss.
If you have hearing loss, using hearing aids may lower the risk of developing dementia by over 40%. This causes the risk of developing dementia to be equal to the risk in people without hearing loss.
The research presented by this study supports the idea that using hearing aids could prevent the development of dementia. In a CNN report, one of the study’s authors, Dongshan Zhu, stated, “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.”
In this study, researchers used data of over 437,000 people from the UK Biobank. The UK Biobank is a database of health information from approximately 500,000 people from the United Kingdom. The researchers took other factors into account including depression, isolation, loneliness, and substance use. These factors did not change their finding that untreated hearing loss contributes to dementia.
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In individuals over 65, the risk of developing hearing loss is 30%, and in people over 85, the risk of developing hearing jumps to as high as 70-90%. The researchers estimated that only 13% of people with hearing loss use hearing aids.
This lack of hearing aid use is troubling. Theories state that sensory deprivation due to hearing loss may shrink brain volume. This can lead to cognitive decline. When compared to people without hearing loss, those with hearing loss experience more loneliness, social isolation, and depression.
People still seem embarrassed when using hearing aids, but there is no reason to be. Hearing aids significantly improve the quality of life and limit many social and health problems.
In the United States, steps are being taken to improve access to hearing aids. In August 2022, the US Food and Drug Administration made hearing aids available over the counter without prescription. In a CNN report, Dr. Karina De Sousa, an audiology and speech-language pathology researcher, stated, “One thing to remember is that OTC hearing aids are not a one-size-fits-all option. If you do not meet the specified criteria for wearing an OTC hearing aid, I would recommend seeking the help of a qualified hearing professional.”
The importance of wearing hearing aids has never been clearer. If you experience hearing loss, treating it as early as possible will limit your risk of dementia and allow you to have a better quality of life as you age.
- Jiang, F., Mishra, S. R., Shrestha, N., Ozaki, A., Virani, S. S., Bright, T., Kuper, H., Zhou, C., & Zhu, D. (2023). Association between hearing aid use and all-cause and cause-specific dementia: an analysis of the UK Biobank cohort. The Lancet Public Health. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(23)00048-8
- Holcombe, M. (2023). Not enough people wear hearing aids, experts say. Doing so could reduce dementia. CNN Health. https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/13/health/dementia-hearing-loss-biobank-wellness/index.html