Dementia and hearing loss linked in new study

Thursday 20th July 2017
People with hearing loss may be more likely to experience cognitive decline, according to new research.
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Hearing loss has been linked with an increased risk of dementia in later life in a recent study.

Research carried out by doctors from the University of Wisconsin in the US found that hearing and speech decline in individuals in late middle age could be an early indicator of cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.

Their findings were presented at the recent Alzheimer's Association International Conference in London, having involved 783 patients whose hearing, memory and thinking skills had been tested over a four-year period. Over two-thirds of the participants had at least one parent who had received an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis.

Although the tests focused on patients' memory and mental function, it was found that those who were recorded as having hearing loss at the beginning of the study period were more than twice as likely to be noted as suffering from mild cognitive impairment by the end of the investigation compared to their hearing counterparts.

Therefore, this suggests a link between hearing loss in middle age and an increased risk of dementia onset, with lead author of the research and PhD student Taylor Fields stating: "There is something here and it should be looked into."

Further research will be needed to explore this link further and to see if there is a way to potentially halt the onset of cognitive decline among individuals with hearing loss.

Commenting on the US study, Clive Ballard, a professor of age-related disease at the University of Exeter, explained to the Guardian that the link is "really not mild" at all.

He added that people with hearing loss tend to fall into the bottom five per cent in terms of cognitive performance.

"About 50 per cent of these individuals will go on to develop dementia," Mr Ballard stated.

"Potentially it is something you can do something about, which I think makes it really important to understand better."

Written by James Puckle

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