New research from Trinity College, Dublin has suggested that hearing loss could be a risk factor for dementia or cognitive decline.
Researchers from the college analysed the results of 36 different studies that looked into hearing loss and dementia, involving over 20,000 people. The study found that age-related hearing loss had a small, but significant, association with dementia and cognitive decline.
Discussing the findings, Dr Clare Walton, research communications manager, said: “There is emerging evidence that hearing loss is a risk factor for dementia, as highlighted by a large study in the Lancet Commission earlier this year. This research has reviewed and re-analysed the results of several previous studies, and the results add weight to the potential link between hearing loss and cognitive decline or dementia.
“So far these studies have only found an association between hearing loss and memory and thinking abilities and we can’t say for sure whether hearing loss can cause dementia. However, researchers have a few theories as to how hearing loss could feed into dementia risk. This includes the theory that the brain is diverting important resources from other areas in order to fully understand and process sounds, or that hearing loss can lead to increased social isolation. Further work is needed to find out whether any of these theories are true.
“We still don’t know if hearing aids can help to reduce the risk of dementia, but researchers are now turning their attention to this important question and we look forward to seeing the results.
“It is important to remember that not all cases of hearing loss will be associated with dementia. It is also important to get your hearing checked regularly, especially in mid-life and older age and to follow the advice of your audiologist.”