Dementia: Know the signs and protect your brain

Dementia is a common cognitive illness which affects 1 in 10 people under the age of 65 in Northern Ireland. Diseases such as Alzheimers, incidents like strokes and even hearing loss can cause brain matter to deteriorate which can lead to dementia. A healthy lifestyle and taking care of your mental health can help you to avoid developing dementia in later years. Discover what you can do to stay healthy and prevent dementia in our free downloadable guide.

Meet leading neuroscientist and wellness author, Dr Sabina Brennan

''Untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation and depression both of which are detrimental to the health of your brain. That’s why adopting hearing health habits like protecting your ears from excessive noise, going for annual hearing tests and wearing hearing aids are a brilliant way to look after your brain health.'' - Dr Sabina Brennan

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A study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, USA, followed 600 adults for 12 years and found that mild hearing loss doubled the risk of dementia. Moderate hearing loss tripled someone's risk, and severe hearing loss increased the risk by five times.

Another study, published by The Lancet, found that people with untreated hearing loss have a higher chance of developing dementia, compared to those without hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss nearly doubles the risk of dementia, however the increased risk isn't seen in those with hearing loss who use hearing aids. It was found that utilising the power of hearing aids could ultimately reduce the risk of cognitive decline by around 48%. 

Using hearing aids appears to have a positive impact, the study concluded, potentially reducing the risk of different types of dementia.  If causality is established through more research, authors in the study wrote, ‘hearing aids will present a minimally invasive, cost-effective intervention to mitigate all, or at least some, of the effect of hearing loss on dementia.

According to Dolores Madden, Marketing Director and Audiologist at Hidden Hearing, hearing loss is now known to be a potentially preventable cause of dementia.

Medical research is building the case that hearing loss is one of the biggest modifiable risk factors for dementia, and that wearing hearing aids, when needed, mitigates that risk.  Other factors like high blood pressure and lower education can also be remedied through medication and lifestyle changes, from diet and exercise to engaging in mentally stimulating activities.”

Hearing loss and dementia

According to the 2022 Lancet Commission Report on Dementia Prevention, the risk of dementia can be cut by one third by treating hearing loss. The report by the leading medical journal assessed the potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia that can be addressed as preventative interventions. The report recommends wearing hearing aids where hearing loss is present as this can prevent the onset of dementia. The Lancet Commission also recommends taking measures such as safe listening and protecting the ears from excessive noise exposure as they prevent against hearing loss which is a leading cause of dementia.

Lancet 2022 Lancet 2020

Hearing loss and dementia

Did you know that people with mild hearing loss are twice as likely to suffer from memory loss and that people with moderate hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia? Hearing plays a huge part in cognitive function and untreated hearing loss can lead to cognitive decline, memory loss and dementia. Remember, hearing care is self-care.

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4. G Livingston, Jonathan Huntley, Andrew Sommerlad, et al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. The Lancet. July 30, 2020.

5. J.P. Marinello, Christine Lohse, Wanda Fussell, et al. Association between hearing loss and development of dementia using formal behavioural audiometric testing within the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging (MCSA): a prospective population-based study, Lancet Healthy Longev 2022, November 18, 2022.