It is unlikely that anyone reading this post does not know someone suffering from, or affected by dementia. There are 1.2 million people in the UK (48 million worldwide) living with dementia. It is a far reaching disease which not only affects the individual, but all of their family, friends, and carers. Hearing loss has been identified as one of nine key modifiable factors that contributes to development of dementia.
Other factors were lack of education (8%), smoking (5%), failing to treat depression (4%), physical inactivity (3%), isolation (2%), high blood pressure (2%), obesity (1%), and type 2 diabetes (1%). The percentages are indications of how much of the risk each factor contributes, hearing loss carried the largest risk at 9%. These are all categorised as modifiable, as they can all be treated at least to some degree.
There are suggestions that hearing loss may add to the burden of a vulnerable brain, and increase the progression of dementia. Both hearing loss and dementia have been reported to cause increased social disengagement and depression, so may exacerbate or accelerate each other’s symptoms.
It is not yet completely clear whether the use of hearing aids and other instruments can prevent the onset of dementia. Hearing loss is known as a modifiable risk factor because it can be addressed and improved. Social isolation and depression contribute 6% of the modifiable dementia risk to potential cases, and hearing loss has long been known to cause both of these conditions. With this in mind, treating hearing loss, by default, often also takes care of two other major factors, and could potentially reduce dementia risk by 15%. Other risk factors could be addressed: by stopping smoking, keeping your mind agile, and regular exercise, and you could potentially negate most of the prospective 35% risk – vastly reducing the possibility of dementia onset.
Dementia is an unfortunate inevitability for many people. However disheartening this seems, to be able to potentially negate the effects of 35% of the risks puts us in a very strong position. Knowledge is always the first step towards a cure, and though currently all advice is only preventative, we are certainly heading in the right direction.
If you are worried about your hearing health in relation to dementia (or otherwise) and would like some advice, please do not hesitate to contact us for professional, friendly guidance.
VANCOUVER, Sept. 19, 2016 /CNW/ – Professor Yves Joanette, PhD, FCAHS, Chair of the World Dementia Council and Scientific Director of CIHR’s Institute of Aging, gave a keynote address last night at the 33rd World Congress of Audiology (WCA) in Vancouver. Professor Joanette used the opportunity to bring attention to the critical global issue of dementia and also highlighted the relationship to hearing loss in seniors.
“Dementia is a global challenge that is only going to grow as the global population ages and seniors live longer. Unfortunately, we now know that people suffering from untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia than those who have normal hearing function,” said Professor Joanette. “The global dementia crisis will increase at an alarming rate between 2016 and 2050, and it is imperative that individuals suffering from hearing loss take preventative steps to reduce the likelihood of developing dementia in their lifetime.”
Currently, over 44 million people globally suffer from dementia. That number is forecasted to rise to 135 million by 2050, due to the aging population and increasing life expectancy. In 2016, an individual is diagnosed with dementia every three seconds. The social and emotional cost of living with dementia affects not only the individual but the entire network of friends and family. There are preventative steps individuals can take to reduce their chances of developing dementia. Persons suffering from untreated hearing loss can also take steps to minimize the risk of developing dementia.
“As colleagues in the field of Audiology, we know that communication health is integral to social development, and it remains so throughout a person’s life. While the evidence is clear on the relationship between poor hearing health and an increased incidence of dementia, more research and collaboration are needed to better prevent, diagnose, and treat this disease,” added Joanette. “Canada is lucky to have the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, an all-star team on neurodegenerative aging, which includes links with sensory impairments. Together with colleagues around the world we are working collaboratively to combat this growing health challenge. Through continued support in research and innovation, we hope to ease and eventually eliminate the suffering for millions of people.”
While research has linked hearing loss and dementia, more research is needed to further study whether there is a common neurodegenerative cause/risk factor between hearing impairments and dementia. Audiologists and other hearing health experts are committed to combat this critical issue before it continues to escalate into a larger health emergency.
About the WCA The World Congress of Audiology is the biennial Congress of the International Society of Audiology and is jointly hosted by Speech-Language and Audiology Canada and the Canadian Academy of Audiology in Vancouver, Canada.
Hearing loss has been linked to a number of other health concerns in recent years, especially to cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Adults with hearing loss are two to five times more likely to develop dementia when compared to adults with normal hearing.
A direct link between hearing aid use and cognitive decline
A recent study by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has found a direct correlation between hearing aid use and cognitive decline performance in older adults (aged 80 to 99) with hearing loss. The study also indicates that older adults with hearing loss who used hearing aids performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those who did not use a hearing aid.
The goal of the study was to determine if hearing aids could slow the effects of aging on cognitive function. Dr. Anil K. Lawlwani, professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at CUMC and otolaryngologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/CUMC and NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, said the following of their findings: “Our study suggests that using a hearing aid may offer a simple, yet important, way to prevent or slow the development of dementia by keeping adults with hearing loss engaged in conversation and communication.”
CUMC’s study further supports the notion that hearing loss impacts neurological elements as we age. In 2014, researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging used information from the ongoing Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging to look at the differences in brain changes between adults with normal hearing and adults with hearing loss. Analysis of the participants’ MRIs over the years showed that participants with hearing loss had accelerated rates of brain atrophy compared to those with normal hearing.
More specifically, “Overall, the scientists report, those with impaired hearing lost more than an additional cubic centimetre of brain tissue each year compared with those with normal hearing. Those with impaired hearing also had significantly more shrinkage in particular regions, including the superior, middle and inferior temporal gyri, brain structures responsible for processing sound and speech.”
Hearing loss is not uncommon today, and in older adults, hearing health is key.