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March 2018 AAPMedianet  

To commemorate World Hearing Day and ensure a better future for all Australians at risk of developing dementia or hearing loss, Dementia Australia has released information to help understand the link between the two conditions.  Executive Director Client Services Susan McCarthy said while hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults, it is important to seek assistance as soon as you can as the earlier hearing loss is diagnosed and treated,  the greater the impact of hearing interventions. It is also important to seek assistance because hearing health is related to brain health. “We know from a growing field of medical research that a decline in memory and thinking capabilities occurs approximately 40% faster in people with hearing loss than in those with perfect hearing,” Ms McCarthy said. “While these statistics are worrying, they offer hope that if we manage to diagnose and treat hearing loss earlier, we may help lower the risk of dementia.  

“It’s important to note that not everyone who has hearing loss will develop dementia. It is also important to be aware of lifestyle factors such as eating healthy, mental and physical exercise and keeping socially active that may reduce your risk of developing dementia, as well as undertaking preventative health management of hearing loss.”  

Researchers suggest the following theories could contribute towards the link between hearing loss and dementia

  • the social isolation experienced by those with hearing loss could contribute to a decline in mental abilities;
  • dementia and hearing loss could have similar causes and involve joint processes;
  • cognitive overload – the brain becomes run down because it has to work harder to decode and process sounds; and
  • hearing loss might affect brain structure, causing mental health decline.

The help sheet can be used to inform people about the associated risks and risk reduction strategies that can be adopted to reduce the likelihood of hearing loss and potentially reduce the likelihood of developing dementia. To download the help sheet visit www.dementia.org.au/files/helpsheets/Helpsheet-OtherInformation04-HearingLoss_english.pdf

Dementia Australia is the national peak body for people, of all ages, living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers. It provides advocacy, support services, education and information. An estimated 425,000 people have dementia in Australia. This number is projected to reach more than 1.1 million by 2056. Dementia Australia is the new voice of Alzheimer’s Australia. When talking or writing about dementia please refer to Dementia-Friendly Language Guidelines.

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