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Link between hearing loss, dementia and depression

A new long-term study has confirmed a link between hearing loss and dementia and depression in older adults.

As part of World Hearing Day earlier this week, the British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) highlighted an important new study into the link between hearing loss and depression, disability, and risk of dementia in older adults.

The research will be presented at debate at the European Parliament hosted by its European counterpart EHIMA during this week.

These associations have long been suspected within the hearing care sector and there is a growing body of evidence resulting from studies which have been conducted over a short time span.

However, the new research which has been conducted by Helene Amieva, an neuropsychologist and epidemiologist working at Inserm in Bordeaux, has assessed candidates over a period of 25 years in order to provide more robust evidence.

Specifically, 3,777 participants aged over 65 were included; of these, 1,289 reported hearing problems and 2,290 reported no trouble.

Professor Amieva’s study found an increased risk of disability and dementia in those with hearing loss, and notably an increased risk of depression in men who reported hearing problems. In additional analyses, these negative associations were not found in the participants using hearing aids.

The study also showed that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids have the same chance of staying independent as people with normal hearing.

The research confirms the strong link between hearing loss and the risk of disability, dementia, and depression, it also has important repercussions for how we treat hearing loss in older adults in the future.

The World Health Organisation has chosen the theme of “Hear the Future” for World Hearing Day 2018, drawing attention to the anticipated increase in the number of people with hearing loss around the world in the coming decades, due to populations living longer. Over 466 million people worldwide currently live with disabling hearing loss. It is predicted that by 2050 that figure will have risen to 900 million people (that’s nearly one in ten people).