According to a new study, people with hearing loss who do not use a hearing aid may have a higher risk of dementia compared to those without hearing loss.
However, the study suggests that using a hearing aid may reduce this risk to the same level as that of people without hearing loss.
The study analyzed data from the UK Biobank database, which included information on the presence of hearing loss and the use of hearing aids collected via self-reported questionnaires.
The diagnoses of dementia were determined using hospital records and death register data.
The study involved 437,704 participants, with an average age of 56 years old at recruitment and an average follow-up time of 12 years.
The team found that around one-quarter of the participants had some level of hearing loss, and only 11.7% of those with hearing loss used hearing aids.
After controlling for other factors, the finding suggests that people with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids have a 42% higher risk of all-cause dementia compared to participants with normal hearing.
However, no increased risk was found in people with hearing loss who used hearing aids.
The authors of the study emphasize the urgent need for the early introduction of hearing aids when someone starts to experience hearing impairment, as hearing loss may begin as early as one’s 40s.
They also highlight that approximately four-fifths of people experiencing hearing loss do not use hearing aids in the UK.
The study’s findings suggest that hearing loss could be linked to around 8% of worldwide dementia cases.
Therefore, addressing hearing impairment could be a crucial way to reduce the global burden of dementia.
The authors suggest that a group effort from across society is necessary, including raising awareness of hearing loss and its potential links with dementia, increasing accessibility to hearing aids by reducing costs, and providing more support for primary care workers to screen for hearing impairment, raise awareness, and deliver treatment.
While the study acknowledges some limitations, including potential bias in self-reporting, the observational nature of the study, and unmeasured factors, it provides compelling evidence that treating hearing loss is a promising way of reducing dementia risk.
The authors suggest that it is time to increase awareness of and detection of hearing loss, as well as the acceptability and usability of hearing aids, to prevent dementia in people with hearing loss.
How to prevent hearing loss
Hearing loss is a common condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including aging, noise exposure, infections, and genetics. While some causes of hearing loss cannot be prevented, there are several steps you can take to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss. Here are some tips:
Protect your ears from loud noise: Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent damage to your hearing, so it’s essential to take steps to protect your ears from loud noise.
Wear earplugs or earmuffs when you are in a noisy environment, such as at concerts or when using power tools.
Limit exposure to loud sounds: If you are unable to avoid loud noises, try to limit your exposure time. Take breaks and move away from the source of the noise periodically.
Follow safe listening practices: When listening to music or other audio, keep the volume at a safe level. Avoid listening to music through headphones or earbuds at high volumes for long periods.
Maintain good ear hygiene: Keep your ears clean and dry to prevent infections and other ear-related issues.
Manage underlying health conditions: Certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, can contribute to hearing loss. Therefore, managing these conditions can help protect your hearing.
Avoid smoking: Smoking can cause a range of health problems, including hearing loss. Therefore, avoiding smoking can help protect your hearing and overall health.
Get regular hearing screenings: Regular hearing screenings can help detect hearing loss early and allow for timely intervention.
By following these tips, you can help protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss.
However, if you are concerned about your hearing or have symptoms of hearing loss, it’s essential to speak with your healthcare provider to determine the cause of your hearing loss and explore potential treatment options.
If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Omega-3 fats and carotenoid supplements could improve memory.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and flavonoid-rich foods that could improve survival in Parkinson’s.
The study was conducted by Dr. Fan Jiang et al and published in The Lancet Public Health.
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