According to a recent study published in The Lancet Public Health, untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia. This article examines the connection and available treatment options.
Hearing Loss and Dementia
The lack of treatments that cure or stop dementia development shows the need to identify risk actors to prevent it from happening. Similar to dementia, hearing loss becomes more common as you get older.
Additionally, some studies show a connection between hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia. As such, using hearing aids could reduce the risk of dementia.
Use of Hearing Aid and the Risk of Dementia
The study included data from 437,704 participants collected by the UK Biobank. The participants did not have symptoms of dementia at the start of the study and had an average age of 56 years.
The researchers discovered hearing loss was more common in male participants than in females. Additionally, they realized that individuals with hearing had a 42% greater chance of developing all-cause dementia.
Not Treating Hearing Loss May Heighten the Risk
Consequently, the researchers reviewed data after excluding dementia cases 5 or 10 years after the study began. In these following analyses, untreated hearing impairment was still linked to dementia. This suggests that hearing loss was possibly a risk factor for dementia.
Alternatively, the lack of auditory input because of hearing loss can degenerate the brain regions responsible for processing auditory information. Hearing loss can also affect communication and lead to loneliness and depression.
In the current study, the analysis implied that only 11% of the reduction in dementia risk because of hearing aid use can be linked to enhancing psychological factors. These include loneliness, depression, and social isolation. This suggests that hearing loss could directly increase the risk of dementia by affecting your brain regions involved in cognition.
Strengths and Limitations
The study’s strengths included using a large study sample and the determination of dementia based on medical reports rather than self-reports. However, the researchers admitted the study had a few limitations.
For instance, self-reported data on hearing loss may be inaccurate. Furthermore, the data on hearing aid use was only obtained at baseline. As such, the analysis did not consider individuals who started using hearing aids after the study began.
Leaving your hearing loss untreated can lead to dementia later in life. You can visit your doctor and get medical recommendations for your ear treatment.