Hearing Loss Increases the Risk of Dementia in Older Adults
Need to Improve Hearing Care Access
“This study refines what we’ve observed about the link between hearing loss and dementia, and builds support for public health action to improve hearing care access,” says lead author Alison Huang, PhD, MPH, a senior research associate in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology and at the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health, also at the Bloomberg School.
How Common is Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a major public health concern that affects two-thirds of Americans over the age of 70. The growing realization that hearing loss may be linked to the risk of dementia, which affects millions of people, and other negative outcomes has heightened interest in implementing potential hearing loss treatment options.
Huang and colleagues examined a nationally representative dataset from the National Health and Aging Trends Study for the new study (NHATS). The National Institute on Aging-funded NHATS has been running since 2011, and it uses a nationwide sample of Medicare users over the age of 65, with a concentration on those aged 90 and over, as well as Black people.
Hearing Loss Severity Linked to Dementia
The study included 2,413 people, over half of whom were above the age of 80, and found a link between hearing loss severity and dementia. The prevalence of dementia was 61% greater in persons with moderate/severe hearing loss than in participants with normal hearing. In the 853 people with moderate/severe hearing loss, using hearing aids was related to a 32% decreased prevalence of dementia.
Many previous studies were constrained in that they depended on in-clinic data gathering, leaving out disadvantaged people who did not have the means or capacity to travel to a clinic, according to the authors. The researchers acquired data from participants for their study through in-home testing and interviews.
The exact process through which hearing loss is linked to dementia is unknown, but research hint at various possibilities. Huang’s study adds to the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health’s corpus of work on the association between hearing loss and dementia.
The authors of the study anticipate that their Aging and Cognitive Health Evaluation in Elders (ACHIEVE) Study will provide a more complete picture of the effect of hearing loss treatment on cognition and dementia. The three-year randomized trial findings are expected this year.
“Hearing loss and dementia prevalence in older adults in the United States” was co-authored by Alison Huang, Kening Jiang, Frank Lin, Jennifer Deal, and Nicholas Reed.
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