Hearing loss, disability, dementia and depression

March 2, 2018

Ahead of World Hearing Day 2018, a new study has found a link between hearing loss, disability, dementia and depression. The 25-year study was published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.

The background to the study says, 'Hearing loss in older adults is suspected to play a role in social isolation, depression, disability, lower quality of life, and risk of dementia. Such suspected associations still need to be consolidated with additional research. With a particularly long follow-up, this study assessed the relationship between hearing status and four major adverse health events: death, dementia, depression, and disability.'

The study of more than 3,000 participants aged 65 or over was followed up for 25 years. 1,289 of the participants reported hearing problems at the beginning of the study and 2,290 reported no hearing problems. The researchers assessed the risk of negative outcomes including death, dementia, depressive symptoms, disability in activities of daily living and instrumental activities in daily living.

The team, led by Hélène Amieva, PhD from the University of Bordeaux, Inserm, Bordeaux Population Health Research Center found an increased risk of disability and dementia for those participants that reported hearing problems. An increased risk of depression was also found in men who reported hearing problems.

In additional analyses, such associations were not found in those participants that used hearing aids. They also concluded that mortality was not associated with self-reported hearing loss.

To mark World Hearing Day on 3rd March 2018, the British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) has highlighted this research into the link between hearing loss, disability, dementia and depression in older adults.

BIHIMA says that, 'These associations have long been suspected within the hearing care sector and there is a growing body of evidence resulting from studies which have been conducted over a short time span. However, this new research which has been conducted by Helene Amieva, a neuropsychologist and epidemiologist working at Inserm in Bordeaux, has assessed candidates over a period of 25 years in order to provide more robust evidence.

'This research not only confirms the strong link between hearing loss and the risk of disability, dementia, and depression, it also has important repercussions for how we treat hearing loss in older adults in the future.'

The World Health Organisation has chosen Hear the Future as the theme for World Hearing Day 2018, drawing attention to the anticipated increase in the number of people with hearing loss around the world.

Hélène Amieva, Camille Ouvrard, Céline Meillon, Laetitia Rullier, Jean-François Dartigues; Death, Depression, Disability, and Dementia Associated With Self-reported Hearing Problems: A 25-Year Study, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, glx250.

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