Ensuring that people with hearing problems have access to hearing aids could be important in the fight against dementia.
The link between hearing loss and the development of dementia is one that has been closely investigated in the last few years.
Now a US physician is planning on starting a clinical trial to study whether providing easy access to hearing aids could help to prevent or reduce cognitive decline.
Dr Frank Lin has previously carried out research in 2013 which suggested hearing loss is linked to a 30-40 per cent greater risk of cognitive decline than those who don’t have hearing loss.
Now he would like to study whether using hearing aids is a simple solution to this issue. He will be presenting his research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC.
‘I’m asking, how can our peripheral functions – namely hearing – affect our central functions – our brain?’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, this question is completely unknown. This trial has never been done before.’
It’s thought that when someone has a hearing impairment, straining to listen to what’s being said can overtax the brain and weaken working memory.
‘The vast majority of dementias in late life are multifactorial,’ says Lin, ‘but the role of hearing loss has just not been studied. Treating hearing loss could potentially help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.’
In the UK, the NHS estimates that 11 million people are hearing impaired to some degree, but only 1.4million people use hearing aids.