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Is Hearing Loss Connected to Dementia?

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August 16, 2023 •  Emily Hicks Law, PLLC
Moderate-to-severe hearing loss was linked with a higher prevalence of dementia, a cross-sectional study of Medicare beneficiaries showed.

Research shows that among about 2,400 older adults in the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), dementia prevalence among people with moderate-to-severe hearing loss was higher than it was among those with normal hearing. The study was conducted by Nicholas Reed, AuD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues.

MedPage Today’s recent article entitled “Dementia Tied to Hearing Loss” noted that, among people with moderate-to-severe hearing loss in the study, hearing aid use was linked to a lower prevalence of dementia compared with no hearing aid use.

These findings support a recent analysis that showed treating hearing loss led to cognitive benefits. It also supports the availability of over-the-counter hearing aids which people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss now can purchase directly in light of new regulations.

Reed and colleagues used data from the continuous NHATS panel study of Medicare beneficiaries, and participant information collected through in-home interviews.

About a third of participants (33.47%) had normal hearing after weighting, 36.74% had mild hearing loss and 29.79% had moderate-to-severe loss.

People with moderate-to-severe hearing loss tended to be older, male and white, and had less education than others.

The weighted prevalence of dementia was 10.27% overall. The researchers found that dementia prevalence rose as severity of hearing loss increased: for normal hearing, it was 6.19%; for mild hearing loss, it was 8.93%; and for moderate-to-severe hearing loss, it was 16.52%.

"This study refines what we've observed about the link between hearing loss and dementia, and builds support for public health action to improve hearing care access," co-author Alison Huang, PhD, also of Johns Hopkins, said in a statement.

"Mediation analyses to characterize mechanisms underlying the association and randomized trials to determine the effects of hearing interventions on reducing dementia risk are needed," Reed and colleagues wrote.

Reference: MedPage Today (Jan. 10, 2023) “Dementia Tied to Hearing Loss”

Suggested Key Terms: Dementia, Senior Health, Hearing Loss

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