Hearing impairment may increase the risk of dementia: Fact or Myth?

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Hearing impairment may increase the risk of dementia: Fact or Myth?

Based on the evidence presented, hearing impairment may increase the risk of dementia in younger individuals. This conclusion comes from a recent stud

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Based on the evidence presented, hearing impairment may increase the risk of dementia in younger individuals. This conclusion comes from a recent study published in eClinicalMedicine, which investigated the link between hearing and cognitive decline over a period of two decades.

Here are the key findings of the study:

  • Individuals with hearing impairment had a 12% higher risk of developing dementia, compared to those with normal hearing.
  • Long follow-up period: The study followed participants for over 20 years, minimizing the risk of reverse causality and confounding.
  • Strong association in younger individuals: For those under 85, hearing loss increased the risk of dementia by 12%.
  • No association in older individuals: In those over 85, there was no significant link between hearing and dementia.
  • Potential competing risk of death: Death may play a role in masking the association in older individuals.
  • Moderate association with specific dementia types: Links were found with Alzheimer’s dementia in men and non-Alzheimer’s dementias in women.

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Hearing impairment may increase the risk of dementia: Fact or Myth?

Hearing impairment may increase the risk of dementia: Fact or Myth? – Depositphotos

Strengths of the study:

  • Use of gold-standard assessments for dementia and hearing impairment.
  • Long follow-up period (over 20 years).
  • Large sample size.

Limitations of the study:

  • Potential underestimation of the association due to comorbidities in the older population.
  • Possible misclassification of dementia subtypes.
  • Observational study design, making it difficult to establish causality.

Background of study

  • Hearing impairment is a known risk factor for dementia, but concerns exist about reverse causality and misdiagnosis.
  • Dementia can take up to 20 years to develop, and hearing loss could be an early symptom.
  • Few studies have followed participants for 10 or 20 years to assess the true risk of dementia associated with hearing impairment.

Study Objectives

  • This study aimed to:
    • Evaluate if hearing impairment is an independent risk factor for dementia.
    • Explore the association with Alzheimer’s and non-Alzheimer’s dementia (AD and non-ADs).

Methods

  • This longitudinal study used data from The Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT) in Norway.
  • Individuals aged at least 20 participated in four surveys over two decades.
  • A sub-study (HUNT4 70+) focused on participants aged 70 and over.
  • 7,135 individuals underwent dementia assessment and audiometry between 1996 and 1998.
  • Poisson regression analyses were used to assess associations after controlling for confounders.

Overall, this study provides strong evidence that hearing impairment is a risk factor for dementia, particularly in younger individuals. Further research is needed to confirm these findings and to investigate the mechanisms underlying this association.


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