Wearing a hearing aid may reduce the risk of dementia by half in people who are at risk of developing the condition, a major study has suggested..

Hearing loss has been linked to diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s and now a study of 2,000 adults has found that those most at risk of developing cognitive decline who wore hearing aids for three years lowered their chances of developing these diseases by 46 per cent.

Professor Frank Lin, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: “These results provide compelling evidence that treating hearing loss is a powerful tool to protect cognitive function in later life, and possibly, over the long term, delay a dementia diagnosis.

Age-related hearing loss

“But any cognitive benefits of treating age-related hearing loss are likely to vary depending on an individual’s risk of cognitive decline.”

Age-related hearing loss is extremely common, with an estimated one in three over-60s in the US having some degree of hearing loss, and a similar number in the UK.

Yet many people still don’t seek help or wear hearing aids because of the perceived stigma.

Cognitive decline

Previous research has suggested hearing loss can contribute to a faster rate of brain wasting as well as social isolation – another known risk factor for dementia.

Published in the Lancet, the study – reported in the national press –  is the first randomised control trial which shows hearing aids could have an impact on those most at risk from cognitive decline.

Participants were aged between 70 and 84 and were asked to carry out tests of language and memory completed at the start of the study and then three years later.

Experts said the findings added further evidence to the importance of keeping the brain active.

Hearing aids bring many benefits

Tara Spires-Jones, president of the British Neuroscience Association, said: “This study adds to evidence that keeping your brain engaged, including through treating hearing loss, may protect against degeneration during ageing.’

Tom Dening, professor of dementia research at the University of Nottingham, said: ‘The results suggest that supporting people who are at higher risk of dementia with interventions such as hearing aids is important and likely to be effective.

“However, I would stress that anyone with hearing loss should bear in mind that wearing hearing aids has many benefits besides potentially reducing your risk of dementia.”

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