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The Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

By: Dr Cliff Olson
November 24, 2018
Video Transcript

Globally, about 47 million people were living with dementia in 2015, and this number is projected to triple by 2050.Up until The Lancet Commission was tasked with identifying preventable risk factors, interventions, and care of dementia, one of the more popular studies that highlighted hearing loss and its link to dementia was a paper by Dr. Frank Lin. Dr. Lin and his colleagues indicated "In this study we found that hearing loss was independently associated with incident all-cause dementia after adjustment for sex, age, race, education, diabetes, smoking, and hypertension, and our findings were robust to multiple sensitivity analyses.”This means that the link between Hearing Loss and Dementia was not due to any other factors other than Hearing Loss itself.  

Ultimately, they found a 200% increased likelihood of dementia with a mild hearing loss, 300% with a moderate hearing loss, and 500% with a severe hearing loss. In 2017, the Lancet Commission on dementia was convened to review the best available evidence and produce recommendations on how to manage or prevent the dementia epidemic.  In their review of research involving dementia, they identified 9 potentially modifiable risk factors of dementia.  

Starting at birth, genetics can play a role in your risk of dementia.  if you have the APOE 4 Allele then you are at a higher risk.  This is currently the only non-modifiable risk-factor in this study and contributes to 7% of your overall risk of Dementia.As you move to early life, less education is a factor at 8% increased risk of dementia.When we get to Midlife, you can see that Hearing loss contributes 9% to the risk of dementia.  

This happens to be the single highest potentially modifiable risk factor dementia.As you move into late life, you have other risk factors like Depression, and Social Isolation, which also happen to be well documented side effects of untreated hearing loss, and you could make the argument that if you add these percentages together, Untreated hearing loss would account for 15% of the increased risk of dementia.  In total, If all of these risk factors were eliminated, the risk of dementia could decrease by up to 35%.

Furthermore, they indicated that Age 55 was the youngest average age in which the presence of hearing loss was shown to increase dementia risk.Does this mean that if you treat your hearing loss that you won’t get dementia? NODoes this meant that if you don’t treat your hearing loss that you will get dementia? NOWhat it does mean is that with all the information we have on hearing loss and dementia today, the best recommendation is treat your hearing loss.So whether you prevent hearing loss by using hearing protection, or treat your hearing loss with hearing aids or surgery, not treating your hearing loss is just plain risky!

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