How does your hearing affect dementia risk? (Alzheimer’s Research UK):
With around 1 million people affected by dementia in the UK, and 12 million people estimated to have a type of hearing loss, it’s never been more important to understand this link.
One way that hearing loss and dementia could be linked is through our blood system.
Certain types of dementia, particularly vascular dementia, are caused when there is less blood flow reaching the brain. This can damage our brain cells. Recent studies have also shown that the parts of our brain that process sounds (our auditory system) have many blood vessels and are vulnerable to damage.
Dr Nicolas Michalski is working to understand this link at Institut Pasteur in France, thanks to funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK. He’s investigating how changes in the blood supply to the brain is linked to hearing problems and in turn, whether this could dementia…
Another area of research is looking at whether hearing loss indirectly affects dementia risk by making it harder for people to stay connected. Social isolation is another known risk factor for dementia.
We know that regular mental activity and social connection can help to build a person’s ‘cognitive reserve’. This is the brain’s ability to cope when it’s faced with challenges, like disease.
News in Context:
“Older adults who get a hearing aid for a newly diagnosed hearing loss have a lower risk of being diagnosed with dementia, depression or anxiety in the following three years, and a lower risk of suffering fall-related injuries, than those who leave their hearing loss uncorrected, a new study finds.
“Most people will experience hearing loss in their lifetime … Think about somebody who is still working and they’re not wearing hearing aids and they are spending so much of their brainpower just trying to focus on listening. They may not be able to perform their job as well. Or if they can, they’re exhausted because they are working so much harder. They are more tired at the end of the day and it’s a lot more taxing. It affects their quality of life.”
35% of worldwide dementia cases could be prevented by modifying these 9 modifiable risk factors. The nine modifiable risk factors include:
Early life — Education to a maximum of age 15
Mid-life — Hypertension; Obesity; Hearing loss
Later life — Depression; Diabetes; Physical inactivity; Smoking; Low social contact