Hearing aids to delay dementia

Can hearing loss cause dementia?

Listen Up! Your Memory May Depend On It

RPH Research Foundation is funding a world-first, randomised clinical trial to investigate if using hearing aids is an effective way to improve the cognitive functions of older adults and delay the onset of dementia symptoms.

Lead investigator Dr Andrew Ford said current data suggests hearing loss accounts for 9% of the modifiable risk factors of all cases of dementia.

“Rehabilitating hearing loss to support/maintain the brain function of older adults could be a viable intervention to delay the onset of dementia symptoms,” Dr Ford said.

Dementia is the leading cause of disability among Australians aged 65 years or older and the second leading cause of death.

Dr Ford, who is a consultant psychiatrist, specialising in older adult care, with the East Metropolitan Health Service and a senior lecturer in The University of Western Australia, said developing effective dementia prevention strategies has become a global health priority.

“Projections suggest that the total number of people living with dementia in Australia could reach 1.1 million by 2050, but this could be reduced by 13% (or about 143,000 people) if the onset of symptoms could be delayed by two years or more,” he said.

“Our vision is to understand whether hearing loss directly causes dementia and if correcting hearing impairment can reduce the rate of cognitive decline among older adults who are at risk of dementia.”

Dr Ford received his Innovation and Impact Grant from RPH Research Foundation to conduct a 24-month, randomised, controlled clinical trial to determine if the correction of hearing loss through the fitting of hearing aids decreases cognitive decline in those at risk. He will be conducting this research in collaboration with colleagues from Ear Science Institute Australia and the WA Centre for Health and Ageing.

The study will also explore the impact of hearing aids on anxiety, depression, physical health and quality of life.

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