Middle-Aged Hearing Loss Doubles Risk of Dementia

“Hearing loss in middle age is associated with higher odds of cognitive decline and dementia in later years,” reports Reuters, citing a large study in Taiwan.

Researchers tracked more than 16,000 men and women and found that a new diagnosis of hearing loss between ages 45 and 65 more than doubled the odds of a dementia diagnosis in the next dozen years. Even mild levels of hearing loss could be a risk factor, so hearing protection, screening and hearing aids may be important means of reducing cognitive risk as well, the study team writes in JAMA Network Open.

“Hearing loss is a potential reversible risk factor for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease,” said senior study author Charles Tzu-Chi Lee of National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei.

Past research suggests that about two thirds of the risk for dementia is hereditary or genetic, which means about one third of the risk is from things that are modifiable, Lee noted. Among modifiable risk factors, hearing loss accounts for about 9% of dementia risk, a greater proportion than factors like hypertension, obesity, depression, diabetes and smoking. “The early identification of hearing loss … and successful hearing rehabilitation can mitigate the negative effects of hearing loss,” Lee told Reuters Health by email.

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