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New study shows how hearing loss affects dementia

Friday 31st May 2019
The link between hearing loss and dementia has been explored in an eight-year study, which revealed that hearing aids might not be the solution.
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The connection between hearing loss and dementia is being explored by many researchers at the moment. Research seems to suggest that the former can lead to the latter, but it’s unclear whether or not there is a causal link between the two. However, a new eight-year study may shed some light on the topic.

Investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital studied 10,107 men aged 62 or older from 2008 to 2016. A six-question test was administered to participants at the beginning and end of the study, as well as at the halfway point in 2012, to assess their subjective cognitive function (SCF) scores.

If the tests or follow-up examinations revealed any SCF concerns, the relevant participants were defined as having declined in their cognitive function. The researchers found that after the eight years were up, participants with mild hearing loss were 30 per cent more likely to experience an SCF decline than those without.

The worse participants’ hearing was, the more likely their cognitive function was to decrease. Participants with moderate hearing loss were at a 42 per cent greater risk of SCF decline, while for those with severe hearing loss this figure increased to 54 per cent.

The researchers wanted to find out if hearing aids could negate some of this decline. However, the results were not encouraging. Among men with severe hearing loss who used hearing aids, the risk of cognitive decline was 37 per cent higher than those with no hearing loss. This is a lower risk than for those without hearing aids, but it was determined not to be statistically significant.

Dr Sharon Curhan, lead author of the study, said: “Our findings show that hearing loss is associated with new onset of subjective cognitive concerns which may be indicative of early stage changes in cognition. These findings may help identify individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline.”

Written by James Puckle

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