The British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturer’s Association (BIHIMA) and Alzheimer’s UK are encouraging people to book regular hearing tests and get hearing concerns checked earlier, as it could significantly lower their chances of developing dementia.
This comes after a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins university found hearing instrument use was associated with a 32% lower prevalence of dementia. This is supported by the evidence which suggests that up to 40% of dementia cases could be prevented if 12 risk factors could be eliminated, one of which is hearing loss.
Paul Surridge, BIHIMA Chairman said: “The connections between hearing loss and dementia have been on our radar for a long time and in the past have brought together academia and the profession to discuss and debate the subject. We were therefore pleased to see Alzheimer’s Research UK pinpoint hearing loss as a risk factor for dementia – more people are now talking about the links between the two and what they can do to minimise their own level of risk for developing this debilitating cognitive disease.”
To support people in understanding their own risks, a new digital tool launched by Alzheimer’s Research UK called Think Brain Health Check-In encourages people to address factors that could reduce their risk of dementia, including sleep, diet and getting their hearing checked.
Hearing loss can have an enormous impact on people’s day to day lives and the positive impact of using hearing instruments is clear; the most recent UK EuroTrak data revealed that 95% of people wearing hearing instruments said it had improved their quality of life and 66% of people wished they had obtained their hearing instruments sooner.
Dr Susan Mitchell, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “While there’s no sure-fire way to prevent dementia, which is caused by a complex mix of our age, genes, and lifestyle, we know that there are steps we can all take that could reduce our risk. This includes getting our hearing checked. Research has shown that people with unaddressed hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia than those without hearing loss.”
A YouGov poll commissioned by Alzheimer’s UK showed that 35% of people surveyed had concerns about their hearing, but more than half (59%) of these people said they hadn’t done anything about those concerns.
Dr Mitchell continued: “With more data on a larger, international level, the hearing and health industry can make a stronger case for increasing funding into health campaigns, improving access to hearing tests and ensuring the journey to having a hearing instrument fitted is easier and smoother. Research must continue so we can get a firmer grasp on the benefits of hearing aids and their impact on dementia risk.
“It is essential that any perceived barriers to getting a hearing check are minimised, ensuring that people can access one at every opportunity. Alzheimer’s Research UK believes that integrating a hearing check within the NHS Health Check, freely available for over 40s in England, is one potential way to do this.”
BIHIMA is making similar calls to healthcare services and believes that hearing health should be prioritised just as much as visual health. The industry body is currently supporting primary care providers and audiologists with a new campaign encouraging patients to get their hearing checked sooner.
Paul Surridge said: “We know that one of the biggest challenges stopping people from getting the hearing care that they need is awareness – they don’t believe that anything can be done to improve their hearing, so they learn to live with it. We hope that this campaign will reach as many people in the community as possible, encouraging them to take that first step to help their hearing and, as a result, improve their prospects for the future.”
Find out more about Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Think Brain Health Check-in here: