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Hearing Loss Increases Dementia Risk

A person with grey hair wears a hearing aid.
Credit: Mark Paton/ Unsplash
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People who are hard of hearing spend more energy listening. That energy comes at the expense of other cognitive functions. Cognitive functions are the mental processes in the brain that enable us to think and solve problems, among other things.

In a new study featuring data from 573,088 people, researchers from the Department of Clinical Research at the University of Southern Denmark have found a link between hearing loss and the development of dementia. The study is the largest of its kind to date.

There is already an increase in the number of people with dementia. This is mainly due to the ageing of the population as a whole, but there are also other risk factors, such as lifestyle and hearing.

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- Previous studies have suggested that there could be a link between hearing loss and dementia. Our study is larger than the previous studies, and we have demonstrated a link between hearing loss and dementia, says Assistant Professor Manuella Lech Cantuaria from the Department of Clinical Research at the University of Southern Denmark.

Good news for hearing aid users

The results of the study show that people affected by hearing loss have up to a 13% higher risk of developing dementia compared to people with normal hearing. The high risk is especially seen in people with severe hearing loss.

The researchers also studied whether there was a difference in the risk depending on whether or not people wear hearing aids.

- We found that the risk of developing dementia was 20% higher for people who didn’t wear hearing aids compared to people with normal hearing. People who used hearing aids had a 6% increased risk of developing dementia. This suggests that wearing a hearing aid can prevent or delay the development of dementia, explains Manuella Lech Cantuaria.

Reference: Cantuaria ML, Pedersen ER, Waldorff FB, et al. Hearing loss, hearing aid use, and risk of dementia in older adults. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2024. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2023.3509

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