Understanding the link between hearing loss and dementia

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. A recent report estimated that if we’re able to entirely eliminate mid-life hearing loss from the population it would lead to a 9% reduction in dementia cases.

Alzheimer’s Research UK has teamed up with Action on Hearing Loss to co-fund Dr Piers Dawes at the University of Manchester. He aims to understand the link between hearing loss and dementia in an exciting international research project.

Researching

Causes
Prevention
Risk

Dr Piers Dawes at the University of Manchester aims to understand the link between hearing loss and dementia in an exciting international research project. The team will determine if dementia is directly caused by hearing loss, if dementia is an indirect consequence of social isolation caused by hearing problems, or if there are other biological factors that increase the risk of both hearing loss and dementia. They will also investigate whether hearing aids can help reduce dementia risk.

This research will help pinpoint the most effective strategies for reducing dementia risk and can inform public health policy for dementia prevention.

Research into dementia risk reduction is vital. The sooner we know how specific modifiable risk factors are linked to dementia, and the lifestyle changes people can make, the sooner we can find a way to stop as many as one in three cases of dementia before they even start.

This international project will use large data sets containing information from thousands of volunteers across the US, UK and other European countries. Each volunteer provided data for up to 17 years.

These datasets contain a wealth of information about participants’ hearing, use of hearing aids, scores from memory and thinking tests, brain scan images, amount of physical and mental activity, and health information. This great resource means that the team can use advanced statistics to investigate how hearing loss and dementia risk are linked.

The team will determine if dementia is directly caused by hearing loss, if dementia is an indirect consequence of social isolation caused by hearing problems, or if there are other biological factors that increase the risk of both hearing loss and dementia.

This information about the mechanisms behind the link between hearing loss and dementia will help us to understand what the most effective strategies are for reducing dementia risk.

It will also assess the potential benefits of hearing aids in reducing the risk of developing dementia, using the same datasets. If the team see reduced risk when people use hearing aids, they will then investigate whether this is linked to other benefits of using them such as increased social interaction and physical activity, and reduced depression

Help us fund more projects like this one.

Dementia is one of the world’s greatest challenges. It steals lives and leaves millions heartbroken. But we can change the future.

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Awarded to
Dr Piers Dawes

Institution
University of Manchester

Current Award
£75,709.00

Dates
1 April 2019 - 31 March 2022

Full project name
Understanding the links between hearing impairment with cognitive decline and dementia