Age-related hearing loss and risk of dementia

Age-related hearing loss happens to most of us as we grow older. Over half of Australians aged 60 years and older experience some kind of hearing difficulty. Hearing loss can occur gradually as we age and despite affecting many aspects of daily life, is often unnoticed and undertreated.

Research has shown that hearing loss with age is associated with faster rates of cognitive decline and increased risk of future dementia incidence. Older adults with mild symptoms of hearing loss may be twice as likely to develop dementia as those with hearing in a normal range. However, we do not currently know why this is.

“Hearing difficulties may reduce quality of life through communication difficulties, social withdrawal, feelings of loneliness and depression, as well as a loss of independence,” says NeuRA Research Fellow, Dr Kim Kiely. “These factors may increase the risk of developing dementia.”

Dr Kiely’s research aims to better understand the link between hearing loss and dementia to inform interventions to prevent cognitive decline.

“Our best bet at this stage is prevention and that will help reduce the rates of dementia over time,” says Dr Kiely.

What can be done to reduce the risk of dementia?
Research at NeuRA suggests lifestyle changes may help reduce your risk of developing dementia, such as:
• healthy eating following the MIND-Diet
• engaging in regular physical exercise
• challenging or stimulating your mind by learning new skills or hobbies
• keeping socially engaged and active


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