Hearing aids could cut the risk of dementia for people with hearing difficulties, new research has suggested.
The findings have been hailed as an “important first step”.
Could push back dementia risk by 5 years
Research saw scientists look at 2,114 hearing-impared patients over the age of 50 from the National Alzheimer’s Co-ordinating Centre.
The study found that a third of participants who used hearing aids had not developed dementia five years after their mild cognitive impairment (MCI) diagnosis. Comparatively, one in five people not using hearing aids did not develop dementia in the same time period.
The percentage of participants who had not developed dementia five years after the baseline MCI diagnosis was 19 per cent for non-users of hearing aids and 33 per cent for those using hearing aids.
Lead researcher Dr Magda Bucholc, of Ulster University, said: “We measured the time for progression from MCI to dementia in individuals using hearing aids and those with uncorrected hearing impairment, and found that use of hearing aids was associated with a two-year slower conversion to dementia.
“Some may say this constitutes a modest finding overall; however, in my opinion, given there is no disease-modifying treatment for dementia, even a small beneficial effect of hearing loss treatment in delaying the disease can have significant implications for public health.
"In fact, studies show that delaying the onset of dementia by even two years would have substantial economic and societal effects."
The research was published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research and Clinical Interventions.
Dr Ralph Holme, executive director of research at the national hearing loss charity RNID, said: “It is well established that hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of dementia, and this new research supports the growing view that the use of hearing aids may help slow its onset.
“Further research is needed to definitively show this, but clearly taking early action to address your hearing loss can only be a good thing. RNID is helping to fund vital research to understand why hearing loss and dementia are linked.”