Wearing a hearing aid can slash risk of dementia by HALF in at-risk patients, study suggests
- Hearing loss has been linked to neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s
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Wearing a hearing aid can slash mental decline by half in people who are at risk of dementia, a major study suggests.
Hearing loss has been strongly linked to neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but it has so far been unclear whether it is a symptom or one of the causes behind the illness.
A study of nearly 2,000 adults found those most at risk of cognitive decline who wore the devices for three years lowered their chances of cognitive decline by 48 per cent.
Experts estimate that up to 8 per cent of dementia cases could be prevented by stopping hearing loss, significantly reducing the global burden of the condition.
Hearing loss has been strongly linked to neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but it has so far been unclear whether it is a symptom or one of the causes behind the illness
Professor Frank Lin, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: ‘These results provide compelling evidence that treating hearing loss is a powerful tool to protect cognitive function in later life, and possibly, over the long term, delay a dementia diagnosis.
‘But any cognitive benefits of treating age-related hearing loss are likely to vary depending on an individual’s risk of cognitive decline.’
Age-related hearing loss is extremely common, with an estimated one in three over-60s in the US having some degree of hearing loss, and a similar number in the UK.
Yet many people still don’t seek help or wear hearing aids because of the perceived stigma around them.
Previous research has suggested hearing loss can contribute to a faster rate of brain wasting as well as prompt social isolation – another known risk factor of mental decline.
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Scientists also believe it may also make the brain work harder to the detriment of other mental functions like thinking and memory.
Published in the Lancet, the study is the first randomised control trial which shows hearing aids could have an impact on those most at risk from cognitive decline.
Participants were aged between 70 and 84 and were asked to carry out tests of executive function, language, and memory completed at the start of the study and then three years later.
These included delayed word recall and remembering number sequences backwards, according to the findings presented at was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
Those most at risk of cognitive decline through lower education and income, higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, or who lived alone, saw 48 per cent less cognitive decline if they wore a hearing aid.
Experts said the findings added further evidence to the importance of keeping the brain active.
Tara Spires-Jones, president of the British Neuroscience Association, said: ‘This study adds to evidence that keeping your brain engaged including through treating hearing loss may protect against degeneration during ageing.’
Tom Dening, professor of dementia research at the University of Nottingham, said: ‘The results suggest that supporting people who are at higher risk of dementia with interventions like hearing aids is important and likely to be effective.
‘However, I would stress that anyone with hearing loss should bear in mind that wearing hearing aids has many benefits besides potentially reducing your risk of dementia.
‘You can hear better, function better socially, do your work in more comfort, and use the aids as cool Bluetooth devices to stay connected. All of which is great for well-being.’
WHAT IS DEMENTIA?
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders
A GLOBAL CONCERN
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour.
There are many types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Some people may have a combination of different types of dementia.
Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK today. This is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting between 50 and 75 per cent of those diagnosed.
In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.
Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.
IS THERE A CURE?
Currently there is no cure for dementia.
But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted, the more effective treatments can be.
Source: Alzheimer’s Society
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