With one in six Australians suffering from hearing loss, the world-renowned medical research organisation – we are urging adults aged over 65 to check their hearing to potentially reduce the devastating impact of dementia.
Paving the way for new dementia research, Ear Science is currently conducting a 24-month randomised control trial – HearCog Trial, to investigate the impact of hearing rehabilitation on cognitive functions by using hearing aids with older adults at risk of dementia.
The HearCog Trial was made possible by research conducted by Dr Dona Jayakody and her team through the Cognition and Hearing Loss project in 2017, examining how unaddressed hearing loss presents a higher risk for dementia among older adults than any other risk factors, including obesity, alcohol overconsumption, traumatic brain injury and hypertension.
The HearCog Trial also explores the cost-effectiveness of hearing loss rehabilitation and the impact of hearing aids on memory, anxiety, depression, physical health and quality of life.
“The groundwork for the HearCog Trial started many years ago, I’m a clinical audiologist and researcher and, in the clinic, we see people with hearing loss and many also had accompanying cognitive impairment,” Dr Jayakody said.
“Following this observation, I did a large review to investigate the potential consequences of age-related hearing loss.
“On completion of the review, we concluded that untreated hearing loss is associated with cognitive impairment, mental ill health, frailty, social isolation and loneliness.”
As the Cognition and Hearing Loss project progressed, Dr Jayakody and her team published significant findings including how the severity of hearing loss is associated with severe cognitive decline, that central auditory processing assessments can help to identify those at risk of dementia and how cochlear implants can delay cognitive decline.
“We studied cochlear implant recipients and those who are on the waiting list for a cochlear implant,” Dr Jayakody said.
“We found that once your cochlear implant is switched on, there is an immediate improvement in cognitive functions.”
According to The Lancet Commission for Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, one third of those diagnosed with dementia could reduce the condition by making lifestyle changes through early intervention.
“Hearing loss is one of the risk factors, and there are other ways to also improve cognitive function like having a strong social network, reducing obesity and smoking, combined everything helps,” Dr Jayakody said.
If you find yourself turning the volume up on your tv remote, hearing better in one ear or have difficulties following a conversation, Dr Jayakody recommends heading to the Lions Hearing Clinic for a hearing test.
“Once the symptoms arise, that is the best time to go and get your hearing tested,” she said.