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If hearing loss is not treated, the risk of dementia increases
Around 46 million people worldwide are currently suffering from dementia. According to current forecasts, the number of people with dementia in Germany will increase to around 3 million by 2050. With numerous campaigns, Alzheimer's societies and self-help groups on World Alzheimer's Day on September 21 provide information about dementia and how people and their families can find help.
Untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia
The cause of dementia is in a majority of cases of brain diseases in which nerve cells are gradually lost for reasons that are still unknown (e.g. Alzheimer's disease), but some of the diseases can be prevented. Numerous studies have shown a connection between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Accordingly, not all risk factors of dementia are genetic - some can be influenced as so-called modifiable factors. Hearing loss is the largest modifiable factor in preventing dementia. According to a recently published study of just under 115,000 people over the age of 66, wearing hearing aids can reduce the relative risk of diagnosing dementia (including Alzheimer's) by 18 percent.
Even if the causal relationships have not yet been finally clarified, the correlation between untreated hearing loss and increasing risk of dementia is clear. One explanation for this is that hearing loss processes less acoustic signals in the brain, which affects cognitive performance. The constant stress of a strong focus on hearing can also neglect other brain functions.
The consequences of untreated hearing loss are largely unknown
Very few people are aware of the fact that untreated hearing loss can lead to an increased risk of dementia as well: According to the 2018 EuroTrak study, a connection between waning hearing and dementia is conceivable for 11 percent of those surveyed.
"Unsupported hearing loss not only increases the risk of serious complications such as depression or dementia, but also increases the risk of accidents from falls and the risk of social isolation," explains Dr. Stefan Zimmer, CEO of the Federal Association of the Hearing Aid Industry (BVHI): "The care of hearing loss is about much more than just hearing well."
Prevention with regular hearing tests - even at a young age
To prevent secondary diseases, experts recommend a regular hearing test, not only in old age. According to figures from the Deutsche Alzheimer Gesellschaft e. V., about 24,000 people in Germany are affected by dementia before their 65th birthday. Doing an early hearing test with an ENT doctor or hearing care professional therefore not only helps to maintain hearing ability in old age. People with hearing loss professionally cared for by the hearing care professional remain mentally fitter, socially integrated in old age and maintain their quality of life.
Around 46 million people worldwide are currently affected by dementia. September about dementia and how people and their families can find help. (sb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Gill Livingston, et al .: Dementia prevention, intervention, and care; in The Lancet Commissions, Volume 390, ISSUE 10113, P2673-2734, December 16, 2017, The Lancet
- Elham Mahmoudi, et al .: Can hearing aids delay time to diagnosis of dementia, depression, or falls in older adults ?, in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; September 04, 20192019, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society