74% of Australians aged over 70 are currently affected by hearing loss. Thus, hearing loss has been identified as one of 12 lifestyle risk factors that account for 40% of dementia cases. Notably, a study by Lancet found that out of these risk factors for developing dementia, hearing loss was at the highest percentage (Wolfgang, 2019).
According to data involving Australian men and women from the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing’s (CHeBA) Sydney Memory and Ageing Study from 2005–2017, individuals who reported moderate to severe hearing difficulties had overall poorer cognitive performances (attention/processing speed and visuospatial ability). It was also reported that they had a 1.5 times greater risk for dementia or mild cognitive impairment at their six-year follow-up appointment. Professor Henry Brodaty said “over six years, there was a 60% greater risk of developing dementia or mild cognitive impairment, and there was significantly greater deterioration in the group of Australians who had moderate to severe hearing loss than those who had no problems or mild problems” (RACQP, 2018).
In correlation with this, Frank Lin and his colleagues found in a study which tracked 639 adults that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk, moderate loss tripled the risk and people with severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop dementia (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2021). Individuals with hearing loss are also more prone to social isolation due to not understanding or hearing conversations. This is consequently also known to heighten the risk of dementia.
Hearing aids can reduce the over-taxing and overworking of the brain caused by hearing loss which therefore makes it easier to process information and socialize. Even if you do not have existing hearing loss, it is important to have regular hearing checks to monitor any changes, reduce background noise and distractions, use visual cues, prompts, gestures and expressions.