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New report shows link between hearing loss and dementia


Hearing loss could lead to dementia, a new report shows.

According to the 2020 Report of The Lancet Commission released last month, managing hearing loss may help lower a person’s risk of developing the disorder that affects the brain.

The report, a product of a well-respected global medical publication, states that modifying 12 risk factors from childhood to late life, could delay or prevent 40% of dementia cases.

The risk factors include hearing impairment, education, hypertension, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, low social contact, excessive alcohol consumption, brain injury, and air pollution.

Of the 12, hearing loss in midlife remains a significant modifiable risk factor.

NSW Audika audiologist Lauren McKee is among the many nationwide hearing care experts recommending managing hearing loss as a means of maintaining an active lifestyle “and thereby preventing one’s risk for developing dementia”, she says.  

“Hearing loss is not acute and instant, it is a gradual decline and it’s often invisible to the person experiencing it,” she said.

“Often it is a colleague or a family member that first notices the signs.

Audiologist Lauren McNee.

“Or you might notice you’re turning the volume up on devices.

“People habitually then make excuses, blaming external noise or mumbling.”

Ms McNee, who has worked in the industry for more than 12 years, says she witnessed her own father go through similar experiences when his hearing first started to decline.

“We’d start having to repeat things to him,” she said.

“I think he was in denial for a while.”

Changes in technology mean the stigma of wearing hearing devices is a thing of the past, Ms McNee says.

“Hearing aids aren’t daggy, 90s, big square things anymore,” she said.

“They are sleek, they’re wireless, Bluetooth, small and rechargeable and very discreet.

“They really are trendy and quite funky, and having the test is harmless.”

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