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CMO's report highlights need for more research into hearing loss and dementia link

Posted on 27/03/2014

Better quality data will help improve prevention, diagnosis and management

An elderly man wearing a hearing aid.

Today the Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies published the second volume of her annual report. The annual report provides a comprehensive picture of England’s health, bringing together a number of data sources to help local authorities and health professionals improve the health of the English population. This year, sensory loss has specifically been chosen as one of the seven areas to focus on.

Key findings

The report shows that:

  • Improvements are needed to the quality and quantity of evidence around the prevalence and impacts of hearing loss. This would help inform local service development.
  • Further exploration of the association between hearing loss and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) may help to reveal more about the causes of dementia and how it can be prevented or delayed.
  • There is higher prevalence of deafness (severe hearing loss) in areas with high socio-economic deprivation, especially among younger people. Further research into this link is needed to help the development of preventative strategies.
  • Deafness has a substantial effect on quality of life, but this effect is mitigated where local services provide appropriate support.

Our response

Paul Breckell, Action on Hearing Loss’ Chief Executive, said: “There are more than 10 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss and with life expectancy rising, the World Health Organisation estimated that by 2030 hearing loss will be in the top 10 disease burdens in the UK, above cataracts and diabetes. Hearing loss is a hidden condition which is largely unrecognised due to a lack of available data and lack of funding for research.
 
“There is now strong evidence of a link between hearing loss and dementia. People with mild hearing loss have nearly twice the risk of developing dementia as people without hearing loss. If dementia services were made responsive to the needs of people with hearing loss it would lead to earlier diagnosis, better care, delayed entry into care homes and it would prevent acute admissions.

“It is essential that the Government ensures resources are allocated to hearing loss within national dementia strategies, and for a hearing screening programme to be introduced for people aged 65 and over to ensure early intervention and treatment. Furthermore, research is needed to develop better diagnostic tools, specialist services and guidance to support people with hearing loss who also have other long-term conditions such as dementia. This could help to provide an essential understanding of the social and biological mechanisms around both hearing loss and dementia.”

Joining Up

Our joint report with the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre showed that 44 per cent of over 70 year olds have moderate to severe hearing loss. There are around 720,000 people aged over 70 in the UK with dementia which means that there are at least 316,000 people aged 70 years and older with hearing loss and dementia. Since we now know that people with hearing loss are more likely to go on to develop dementia, this figure is likely to be much higher. We also estimated that at least £28 million could be saved in delayed entry to care homes in England if hearing loss was properly diagnosed and managed in people with dementia.

Find out more

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Download the Chief Medical Officer's report(external link, opens in new window) in full via the gov.uk website.

Visit our research section to find out more about our Joining Up report.

Find out more about our Hearing Screening For Life campaign.

Tags : Understanding hearing loss Age related hearing loss Media coverage

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