This common health problem linked to higher risk of dementia

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In a new study, researchers found a link between the impact of hearing loss on cognitive abilities and increased risk for dementia.

The research was conducted by a team at UNSW Sydney and elsewhere in Australia.

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.

In the study, the team examined the link between self-reported hearing loss and cognition and increased risk for mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

They used data from 1037 Australian men and women aged 70-90 years enrolled in CHeBA’s Sydney Memory & Ageing Study from 2005-2017.

The team found that people 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 mild cognitive impairment or dementia at the 6 years’ follow-up.

The team says the findings provide new hope for a means of reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in individuals with hearing loss.

The presence of hearing loss is an important consideration for neuropsychological case formulation in older adults with cognitive impairment.

Hearing loss may increase cognitive load, resulting in observable cognitive impairment on neuropsychological testing.

One author of the study is Dr. Paul Strutt.

The study is published in Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition.

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