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Research by Sarah Bauermeister of Dementias Platform UK into hearing loss and its impacts on the progress of dementia in later life has featured in extensive media coverage of a Brain Health Check-In tool created by Alzheimer's Research UK.

A man having his ear looked at by a doctor © Shutterstock

Sarah, a senior scientist at Dementias Platform UK, based in the Department of Psychiatry, was speaking to journalists about both lifestyle and health issues related to dementia. She advised that everyone should have hearing checks throughout their life so that any decline can be spotted. Her comments come after after she highlighted known links between deafness and dementia which suggest a decline in hearing is an indicator of future cognitive issues.

“In my own research, published in two papers (1(2),  we found that hearing aid users had a 50 per cent lower risk of mild cognitive impairment if they wore a hearing aid compared to those who did not use their hearing aids,” she said. 

“Regular hearing checks are very important, and this is across the lifespan, so that it’s normalised to have a hearing check, whether you are 30 or 40 years old. 

“If we normalise hearing checks, it will normalise the wearing of a hearing aid and the stigma will then be reduced. Exactly how and why hearing loss has such a strong link to dementia remains unknown, with Dr Bauermeister saying the mechanisms “are not totally clear”. 

“Being deaf, can leave you socially isolated and not participating in activities. If you don’t go out of the house your  world shrinks and this can have an indirect effect on cognition.”

A review in the Lancet found there to be 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia including hearing loss, education, high blood pressure, obesity and exercise and these are more relevant at various times of life. 

Dr Bauermeister says hearing loss is not only a risk factor for dementia but can have knock-on effects leading to some other problems including depression, a lack of exercise and obesity. 

"It is never too late, or too early, to start changing things. Building cognitive resilience when you are younger will make the brain more robust and better able to fight off dementia in later life.

“The take home message on my side is to start as early as possible. 

“Four to five risk factors could be impacted by just addressing a main one such as hearing loss and hearing aid use,” Dr Bauermeister said. 

The Alzheimer's Research UK online tool to help people recognise what steps they can take to reduce the impact of dementia can be found at: 

Think Brain Health Check-in comprises 12 questions and offer recommendations for lifestyle changes to lower their own individual risk. It was covered by BBC News.

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