New research; Hearing loss and Dementia

audiologist in wellington point speaking with customer about treating hearing loss to avoid early onset dementia

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

“A protective effect against developing dementia”.

“Hearing aids have a protective effect against developing dementia”, that, in its simplest interpretation, is the finding of the recently released – Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission.  More accurately, if you are aged between 45 and 65 years, early detection, and treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids, reduces the ‘modifiable risk’ of developing dementia later in life. As the Lancet is a world-wide highly acclaimed leading medical journal, which for almost 200 years has published papers making a crucial contribution to science and human health, the results are reputable and highly regarded.

Modifiable risk factors.

Reducing the risk of dementia is not always possible. Fully 60% of all cases will occur regardless of changes made to lifestyle. For the remaining 40% of cases, its importantly to be aware that ‘modified risk factors’ exist. These modifiable risk factors have been extensively studied and are the focus of this research. A ‘modifiable risk factor’ is a lifestyle condition, or event, that if avoided, can lessen the likelihood of dementia occurring later in life. For example, you might think of ‘diet’ or ‘exercise’ when considering the modifiable risk factors for heart disease.

Here are the modifiable risk factors for dementia listed in order of effect:

  • Hearing loss (22.2%)
  • Traumatic brain injury (9.2%)
  • Hypertension (5.1%)
  • Alcohol (>21 units/week) (2.1%)
  • Obesity (body-mass index ≥30) (2.0%)

Early intervention is the key

On average, it takes people 10 years from when they become aware of their hearing loss, to when they accept and decide to seek assistance for it. The Lancet report has identified that for 45-65-year-olds, early intervention is key. This is because the new research shows that hearing aids have a protective effect against late life onset dementia.

When a person suffering from hearing loss receives appropriate diagnosis and treatment options earlier in life, it better prepares them for hearing rehabilitation, sooner. It enables them to start considering the impact hearing loss is having on their lives and to commence educating themselves on their options. The result being they are better informed and can use that information to determine the time, place, and circumstances of their rehabilitation, earlier.

Advice for over 65’s

Hearing loss is a disability that is felt personally, and socially. It effects not just the individual, but also their friends, family and loved ones. Typically, if left untreated, someone with hearing loss will find it more difficult and less enjoyable to participate in social engagements. In time, this can lead to reduced social connectedness, which in turn, increases feelings of isolation, frustration, and depression.

Loss of social support and integration are high-risk factor of early mortality. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that these two factors, (loss of social support, and loss of social integration), are more influential in early mortality in seniors, than smoking or heavy drinking (and, no, that doesn’t count as a recommendation for smoking and drinking in company!). (Haslam, McMahon et al., 2018).

Hearing rehabilitation, when performed by a suitably skilled and motivated Audiologist, can assist to reduce these risks. The key is for the Audiologist to be genuinely interested in the patient and to take an approach which incorporates family members and/ or significant support people.

What to do next

At A Better Ear we take the time to get to know your wants and needs. We also involve family members and communication partners in our patient-centred approach to audiology. This supportive and inclusive approach is proven to have a higher success rate of hearing rehabilitation, ensuring ongoing future benefits (Hickson, Meyer et al., 2014).

Regardless of if you are 45 or 95, your time with us is about genuine hearing healthcare advice. We never use coercive sales tactics and our focus is always on providing you with the most up-to-date health information, so you are in a better position to choose. We have a reputation for exemplary care and patient satisfaction. If you want to feel comfortable, empowered and involved in the decision making, contact us to book your comprehensive 1-hour hearing assessment today.

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