New Large-Scale Danish Study Reveals Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia Risk; Suggests Lowered Risk with Hearing Aid Use

hearing loss dementia risk hearing aids may help
January 8, 2024

A new large-scale study suggests that hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. However, the research also found the dementia risk was lower for those with hearing loss who used hearing aids, indicating the devices may play a protective role.

The study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, was led by researchers at the University of Southern Denmark. They analyzed medical records of over 570,000 adults aged 50 and older living in Southern Denmark between 2003 and 2017.

The study was also the subject of this month’s JAMA Otolaryngology Authors Interviews, available below:

Hearing Loss Associated with Higher Dementia Risk

“We did find an increased risk of dementia if you have a hearing loss. There’s a 7% increased risk of dementia if you are diagnosed with a hearing loss,” said lead author Dr. Jesper Schmidt, an ear, nose and throat specialist.

The risk was even higher for those with more severe hearing loss, defined as over 60 decibels. “It’s actually a 17% increased risk of dementia if you have a more severe hearing loss,” Dr. Schmidt explained.

The researchers also looked at hearing aid use in a subset of participants. They found the dementia risk remained 6% higher for those with hearing loss using hearing aids. However, the risk jumped to 20% higher for those with untreated hearing loss.

Hearing Aids May Lower Risk

“This is some indication of that, yes, there’s an association between having a hearing loss and the risk of getting dementia, but at the same time, it also says that there is a possibility that you actually can reduce that risk if you are using hearing aids to treat that hearing loss,”

While the study does not prove causation, it adds to growing evidence on the hearing loss-dementia link. Dr. Schmidt said potential reasons for the association include social isolation, brain changes from auditory deprivation, and effects on cognition.

“We actually think that for both conditions, hearing loss and dementia, there may be some time point where people actually, where patients actually have symptoms quite some time before they actually get the diagnosis,” he explained.

The results suggest hearing aids could play a key role in managing dementia risk for those with hearing loss.

“It may be that you can also find it in other populations, and it may explain why they find it with the higher risk rates in other populations, because there may be also be some people with more mild hearing loss that are treated here”

–Dr. Munuela Cattaria

She added that Denmark provides free hearing aids through their public health system, which could contribute to more people using them at earlier stages of hearing loss. Other countries often have higher costs and barriers to accessing hearing aids.

Importance of Hearing Health

The researchers hope the study makes healthcare providers and the public more aware of the importance of getting hearing tested and treated as soon as issues arise. They suggest routine hearing evaluations alongside other standard health screenings for older adults could help identify early issues and allow for earlier intervention.

While the study had a large sample size, the authors noted some limitations. The data could not capture exactly when participants started using hearing aids or the severity and duration of hearing loss prior to diagnosis. Some mild hearing loss cases may have been missed if people did not seek evaluation right away.

More research is still needed, but this study provides new evidence that treating hearing loss sooner rather than later may help reduce dementia risks. Dr. Cattaria stressed the importance of additional high-quality longitudinal studies with detailed hearing health data and long-term follow up.

For now, the researchers hope these findings will encourage those with hearing difficulties to get their hearing evaluated promptly and consider hearing aids if appropriate. Taking early action could pave the way for better cognitive health down the road.


  • Cantuaria MLPedersen ERWaldorff FB, et al. Hearing Loss, Hearing Aid Use, and Risk of Dementia in Older Adults. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online January 04, 2024. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2023.3509


Source: Otolaryngol Head Neck Surgery

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