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      Crucial funding invested to understand link between hearing loss and dementia

      People with hearing loss are up to five times more likely to be affected by dementia than those without hearing loss. To try to understand this link, national charities Action on Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Research UK have teamed up to invest more than £150,000 into a research project conducted by researchers at the University of Manchester.

      The investment is part of more than £300,000 committed by the two charities towards the research into the links between the two conditions.

      In a study, published in the Lancet in 2017, unaddressed midlife hearing loss was predicted to be the highest contributing risk factor for developing dementia, potentially responsible for 9% of cases. Emerging evidence has shown that mild hearing loss is associated with a doubled risk of developing dementia, with moderate hearing loss linked to three times the risk, and severe hearing loss five times the risk.

      To look into this further, one of the projects, supported by NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre will look to establish if dementia is directly caused by hearing loss, if dementia is an indirect consequence of social isolation caused by hearing problems, or if hearing loss is a marker of biological factors that increase the risk of both hearing loss and dementia. The Manchester team will also investigate whether hearing aids can help reduce the risk of dementia.

      Dr Piers Dawes, who will be leading the study, said: “We know dementia is not an inevitable part of getting older but as the number of older people increases, more and more people are living with this condition.

      This is a global issue affecting 46.8 million people worldwide and therefore, there is an urgent need to find ways of preventing or delaying dementia. Several studies have reported that hearing loss in mid-life is associated with an increased risk of dementia in later life. But, they do not tell us whether hearing loss directly contributes to the risk, or if treating hearing loss, like with hearing aids, would help prevent this condition.

      Our research will help us understand why hearing loss is a marker of risk for dementia and assess the potential benefits of hearing aids in reducing the risk of developing this life affecting illness."

      Dr Ralph Holme of Action on Hearing Loss, said: "Hearing loss and dementia can have devastating consequences, and with an ageing population it is an issue we can no longer ignore. We will also be funding research looking at whether inflammation is the link between hearing loss and dementia. We hope the research we are funding will ultimately lead to new treatments."

      Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research from Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “Hearing loss affects over two thirds of people over the age of 65 and the fact that hearing loss is so common means that it could have a large impact on the overall number of people developing dementia across the population.

      By working in partnership with Action on Hearing Loss, this research funding will help improve our understanding of the underlying links between hearing loss and the development of dementia.

      With no treatments yet able to stop the progression of dementia, it is crucial that we continue to invest in research looking into ways we can reduce our risk of the condition."

      The two charities will be co-funding another £150,000 for a second project at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. This will explore if inflammation of nerve cells in the brain, following exposure to loud noise, speeds up cognitive decline. The research is one of the first studies into the biological processes that may link hearing loss and cognitive decline. Ultimately, it could lead to treatments that are able to reduce the risk of dementia associated with hearing loss.

      Media contacts

      Simon Robb, PR and Social Media Officer Action on Hearing Loss
      Email: simon.robb@hearingloss.org.uk
      T: 0203 227 6164
      M: 07944038635

      Angela Nonis, Communications Specialist, Research and Innovation Division, NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre and NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility
      Email: angela.nonis@mft.nhs.uk
      Tel: 0161 7010435

      Edward Pinches, Science Media Officer, Alzheimer’s Research UK
      Email: edward.pinches@alzheimersresearchuk.org
      Tel: 0300 111 5 666
      Mobile: 07876573717

      Notes to Editors

      Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) is the national charity helping people confronting deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. Action on Hearing Loss enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way, giving people support and care, developing technology and treatments, and campaigning for equality.

      Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia. We rely on donations to fund our vital dementia research. To help make breakthroughs possible, donate today by visiting www.alzheimersresearchuk.org or calling 0300 111 5555.

      We are currently supporting pioneering dementia research projects worth over £31 million in leading Universities across the UK.

      How can we challenge perceptions of dementia using only an orange? Find out more at www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/orange and help us share a better understanding about dementia. #ShareTheOrange

      Dr Piers Dawes is co-lead of the European Commission's Horizon 2020 "SENSEcog study" and NIHR Manchester BRC, Hearing Health Minimising Risk Programme Lead.

      The NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is hosted by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and The University of Manchester, in partnership with The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. The NIHR has invested £28.5m in Greater Manchester over five years from 1st April 2017 under the NIHR BRC Award Scheme. www.manchesterbrc.nihr.ac.uk.

      The University of Manchester, a member of the prestigious Russell Group, is one of the UK’s largest single-site university with more than 40,000 students – including more than 10,000 from overseas. It is consistently ranked among the world’s elite for graduate employability. The University is also one of the country’s major research institutions, rated fifth in the UK in terms of ‘research power’ (REF 2014). World-class research is carried out across a diverse range of fields including cancer, advanced materials, global inequalities, energy and industrial biotechnology. No fewer than 25 Nobel laureates have either worked or studied here. It is the only UK university to have social responsibility among its core strategic objectives, with staff and students alike dedicated to making a positive difference in communities around the world. Manchester is ranked 29th in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2018 and 6th in the UK.

      The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research.The NIHR:

      • funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
      • engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
      • attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
      • invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
      • partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.

      The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR commissions applied health research to benefit the poorest people in low- and middle-income countries, using Official Development Assistance funding. 

      For further information, visit the NIHR website www.nihr.ac.uk