April 2019 The Ear Foundation

ear foundation

The Ear Foundation’s new publication summarises the emerging evidence on the associations between hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia. The Ear Foundation’s new briefing aims to help health planners and commissioners to better understand how to support people to age well by looking after their hearing health. The review, which consulted with leading experts in the field from around the world, found that as the ageing population increases, the growing numbers of those with hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia are leading to urgent public health and social issues. Over 60% of adults living with dementia will also have hearing impairment and over 90% of adults living with dementia in aged care will have hearing impairment.

The briefing found emerging evidence into hearing care as a key part of healthy ageing. It reviews evidence which suggests that the prompt use of hearing technology such as hearing aids and cochlear implants can help reduce cognitive decline.  Hearing loss is believed to directly increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia through the effects of hearing loss on the brain and social isolation.  Livingstone et al in The Lancet (2017) concluded that mid life and late-life hearing loss may account for up to 9.1% of preventable dementia cases worldwide and is one of the most potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia. 

Hearing loss impairs communication, has been linked to reduced social support from others and loneliness which, in turn, could increase health risks. More specifically, communication and social connectedness are critical to brain health helping to address dementia and maintain cognitive abilities. Investing in hearing loss presents major opportunities for health systems to invest in healthy ageing and for the public to take action about their hearing, particularly as they age. Hearing well matters. The authors recommend that health systems need to do more to screen for hearing loss in middle age, make hearing well a public health priority and fund this properly and ensure better assessment and hearing support for those with dementia. They also call for hearing organisations, patients’ groups and professionals to work more closely together to ensure that the benefits of hearing health are better understood and promoted, especially in relation to cognitive decline and dementia.

You are able to download this publication by clicking here: Dementia Brochure.pdf

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