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Over £600,000 towards studying link between hearing loss and dementia

Researchers have been awarded over £600,000 to investigate the emerging link between dementia risk and hearing loss.

In this unique collaboration between our BRC’s Deafness & Hearing Problems and Mental Health theme, researchers led by Dr Sergi Costafreda Gonzalez will test a programme they have developed to help boost hearing aid use in people at a high risk of developing dementia.

The research team will develop and test an innovative multi-component intervention of home-based hearing assessment, timely hearing aid fitting and psychological and practical adherence support to ensure participants use their hearing aids.

The pilot trial will conducted in people with hearing loss and mild cognitive impairment, who will be randomised to usual NHS audiological care, where many people will abandon their hearings aids, or the new support intervention.

There has been comparatively little research into this link compared to factors like exercise and diet, however a Lancet commission report published in July 2017 found that, as hearing loss is so wide spread, it may have more of an impact on the overall number of dementia cases than any of the other factors they identified.

Dr Costafreda Gonzalez said: “In the UK, over two-thirds of people aged over 65 experience hearing loss, but most do not get hearing aid treatment. If they do, they very often stop using them, especially if they have memory problems. With mounting evidence of a strong link between hearing loss and dementia risk, this is potentially a huge missed opportunity for us to tackle the growing impact of dementia and make a real difference to people’s lives. We’re hopeful that this work will highlight an approach to help delay the onset of dementia in the long run, and we’re very grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK for this support.”

The funding was part of a £2 million investment by Alzheimer’s Research UK in four innovative new projects exploring ways to reduce the risk of dementia and the team includes BRC Hearing & Deafness theme lead Professor Anne Schilder.