Primary care providers need to pay attention to hearing loss in their patients, recognizing that it’s one of several modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline — ultimately making the brain more susceptible to dementia. That’s the gist of a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA).
The connection between hearing loss and dementia has been clearly established by multiple studies. In 2014, Johns Hopkins research concluded that hearing loss is a risk factor in an estimated 36% of U.S. dementia cases. And, in 2020, The Lancet Commission reported on a University College London (UCL) study, which found that untreated hearing loss in midlife is the largest modifiable risk factor for developing dementia.
The AHA scientific statement takes this issue to a new, actionable level by advising physicians to identify and manage modifiable dementia risk factors, including hearing loss, as a way “to mitigate or forestall the onset of (cognitive) decline before it happens.” The article notes “that although approximately one-third of older adults experience hearing impairment, it remains largely untreated.”