Study Finds Self-Reported Hearing Loss Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia2021-02-08 SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — A six-year study of older Australians in the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) Sydney Memory and Ageing Study has uncovered an association between the impact of hearing loss on cognitive abilities and increased risk for dementia.
In Australia, hearing loss affects 74% of people aged over 70. International studies estimate that people with severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia. Addressing midlife hearing loss could prevent up to 9% of new cases of dementia – the highest of any potentially modifiable risk factor identified by a commissioned report published in The Lancet in 2017.
Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia
A research collaboration between the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), UNSW Sydney and Macquarie University’s Centre for Ageing, Cognition and Wellbeing has confirmed significant associations between self-reported hearing loss and cognition, as well as increased risk for mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
The research, published in Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, used data from 1037 Australian men and women aged 70-90 years enrolled in CHeBA’s Sydney Memory & Ageing Study from 2005-2017.
Individuals who reported moderate-to-severe hearing difficulties had poorer cognitive performances overall, particularly in the domains of Attention/Processing Speed and Visuospatial Ability. They also had a 1.5 times greater risk for MCI or dementia at the 6 years’ follow up.
While hearing loss was independently associated with a higher rate of MCI, it did not show this in people with dementia. This likely resulted from the number of people with dementia at six years’ follow-up being too small to demonstrate a statistically significant effect.