Can hearing aids prevent dementia in people with hearing loss?
Dr Piers Dawes is leading a team at the University of Manchester to understand more about the links between hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia. His three-year project runs until March 2022.
With our ageing population, there are more and more people living with either hearing loss or dementia (or both). Previous research has shown that hearing loss in mid-life is associated with an increased risk of dementia in later life. But these studies don’t show why this is the case. It could be that hearing loss causes dementia, or it could be that the two conditions are both caused by a separate, as yet unknown, factor. It's crucial to understand more about the link between them, and whether treating hearing loss earlier (for example, with hearing aids) could also help prevent dementia.
Dr Dawes and his team are testing if hearing loss causes dementia, either directly or indirectly. For example, hearing loss may lead to social isolation, which could then cause an increased risk of dementia. They are also assessing whether using hearing aids can reduce the risk of developing dementia.
The team are using advanced statistical methods to study the relationships between hearing, cognitive changes and dementia. They will study large databases that have hearing and cognitive data about thousands of people. They hope to determine the effect of changes in brain structure, as well as other factors – including general health, social engagement, physical exercise and depression – on hearing, cognitive changes and dementia.
This research will provide a better understanding of the links between hearing loss and dementia. It will also show if hearing aids can help to promote cognitive health and reduce the risk of dementia in later life.
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