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Hearing aids may protect against a higher risk of dementia associated with hearing loss

A new study published in The Lancet Public Health journal suggests that people with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids may have a higher risk of developing dementia than those without hearing loss. However, the use of hearing aids may reduce this risk to the same level as those without hearing loss.

The research team analysed data from 437,704 participants in the UK Biobank database and found that people with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids had a 42% higher risk of all-cause dementia compared to those with normal hearing. This risk was reduced to the same level as those without hearing loss when hearing aids were used.

The study suggests that hearing loss may be linked to around 8% of worldwide dementia cases, and early introduction of hearing aids when someone starts experiencing hearing impairment is necessary. The researchers also found that the association between hearing aid use and protection from increased dementia was likely mostly due to direct effects from hearing aids rather than indirect causes. Although the study has limitations, the evidence is compelling that treating hearing loss is a promising way of reducing dementia risk, and increasing awareness of and detection of hearing loss, as well as the acceptability and usability of hearing aids, is crucial.