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Hear & Now

The link between untreated hearing loss, cognitive decline & dementia

By Rosie Williams

On 29, Oct 2018 | In | By Rosie Williams

The link between untreated hearing loss, cognitive decline & dementia

Readers may remember an international study in the Lancet, reporting that one in three cases of dementia can be prevented if more people looked after their cognitive health throughout their lives.

In the study, middle-aged hearing loss was identified as a major risk to developing dementia. Hearing loss denies people access to cognitively rich environments and can lead to social isolation and depression, leading to a higher risk of cognitive decline.

The study identified that 35% of the risk factors associated with dementia were modifiable, the most prominent being hearing loss which was responsible for 9% of the acceleration of the onset of dementia.

The link between hearing loss and cognition

A new study has now investigated the link between age-related hearing loss and cognitive decline, looking more specifically at untreated hearing loss and social isolation. The study found a negative association with cognitive ability for those with moderate to severe hearing loss, but only for those who did not use any hearing aids. In fact, there was no evidence of an association between hearing loss and cognitive decline at all in those who wore hearing aids.

 

Untreated hearing loss

This study has been beneficial at helping to confirm that while an age-related hearing loss is a natural part of ageing and can contribute towards the early onset of dementia, this is modifiable and avoidable simply with the correct treatment of hearing loss.

 

Social isolation and cognitive decline

This is also true for social isolation. The recent study found that those with untreated hearing loss were more susceptible to the ill-effects of social isolation which has been shown to reduce cognitive ability significantly. This makes it another modifiable dementia risk factor as the study has shown that using hearing aids or the correct hearing loss treatment can reduce the associated cognitive decline.

 

Dementia risk factors are modifiable with routine checkups

We are pleased that this study has gone into further detail and given further evidence that adults over 50 should be routinely tested for hearing loss and cognitive health in order to manage early risks of cognitive decline.

It also highlights that yet more needs to be done to raise public awareness of the impact of hearing loss on cognitive health so that people can be better at self-care, maintaining routine checkups and work harder at prevention rather than cure.

Here at Cubex, we would thoroughly welcome a public awareness campaign to highlight these research findings, to those experiencing hearing loss and to those who know somebody at risk. The better we can be at identifying a potential hearing loss, the earlier we can treat it and prevent any impact on our cognitive health.

 

Book a hearing test and cognitive wellbeing assessment

At Cubex, we recognise that addressing hearing alone is not enough to improve communication. In addition to assessing your hearing sensitivity, we also evaluate the key cognitive skills sets which are relevant to your hearing. We use a unique set of cognitive wellbeing assessments which allow us to consider your hearing health, mental health and cognitive function.

Furthermore, in addition to being able to understand your state of hearing and cognition, our management programmes such as CALM aims to help you strengthen your cognitive function and develop key skillsets including working memory, attention & processing speed – used in communication and general living. We know that hearing loss renders these skills even more important for working and living well, whether in academic, professional, or social spheres and we understand that these skillsets become less efficient with hearing loss and age. However, there is increasing evidence for the ‘plasticity of the brain’, or more simply our brain’s ability to adapt and change at any age and at Cubex, our approach to treating and managing reduced hearing ability is highly considerate of these cognitive factors.

Book a Consultation and Discovery session with a Cubex Audiologist to get started.

Book a Consultation and Discovery Session >

 

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