Alzheimer’s Research UK, at the launch of their new Think Brain Health Check-in Tool, has called for working-age adults to undergo regular hearing screenings to reduce the risk of dementia. They say maintaining good hearing health is important in helping reduce the risk of dementia for two key reasons.
Firstly, there is a direct link between hearing loss and dementia. A preventive approach to hearing loss by maintaining regular hearing screenings can help prevent issues or significantly reduce their impact.
“Regular hearing checks at all population levels is essential and this is across the lifespan so that it’s normalized to have a hearing check whether you’re 30 or 40.”
This link is well-established. In 2020, the Lancet published a report investigating the growing number of dementia cases worldwide, detailing a number of lifestyle factors that increase the chance of dementia as you age. Mitigating these risk factors can prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases. The study describes how:
- Mild hearing loss doubles dementia risk.
- Moderate hearing loss triples the risk of dementia.
- A severe hearing impairment increases the dementia risk by up to 5 times that of those who do not have a hearing impairment.
Secondly, when hearing screenings become normalized, the wearing of hearing aids becomes normalized and any stigma attached to them is reduced. Speaking ahead of the brain health checker launch, Dr. Sarah Bauermeister from Dementia Platforms UK, cited research that found a 50% reduction in the risk of cognitive impairment for people who need hearing aids and actually wore them vs those who need hearing aids but did not wear them.
For employers, introducing a better hearing benefit that includes an annual hearing screening does two things. It reduces the risk of dementia for the individual who takes the screening. It also has a compounding, positive effect by de-stigmatizing hearing for the benefit of everyone across the wider workforce (and beyond) so individuals who need a hearing device will actually wear one.