MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
David G. Loughrey, BA(Hons)
NEIL (Neuro Enhancement for Independent Lives) Programme
Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, School of Medicine
Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Age-related hearing loss, a common chronic condition among older adults, has emerged in the literature as a potential modifiable risk factor for dementia. This is of interest as current pharmacological therapies for dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease only offer symptom-modifying effects. Treatment of risk factors such as hearing loss may help delay the onset of dementia and may provide an alternate therapeutic strategy. However, there is variance in the research on hearing loss and cognition with some studies reporting a small or non-significant association. In this meta-analysis, we investigated this association and we only included observational studies that used standard assessments of cognitive function and pure-tone audiometry (the clinical standard).
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: The main finding is that hearing loss is associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline, cognitive impairment and dementia. The extent of the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive function varied with several study, demographic, audiometric and analyses factors. These included factors such as geographic location of the study, race and level of education of the sample, quality of audiometric assessment and controlling for vascular risk factors and depression in the analysis.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: This research has indicated support for a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline and dementia but further research is required to verify this association and explore its causal basis. In particular, clinical trials are needed before making clinical recommendations as regards modifying cognitive outcomes. However, hearing loss is associated with a wide range of health-related conditions and poorer daily functioning in older adults. Guidelines to reduce noise exposure such as in the workplace would be beneficial. The popularity of entertainment activities such as listening to music on personal devices or in dance clubs has led to an increase in hearing loss.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: While research points to an association between hearing loss and cognition, the mechanism underpinning this association is not clear. Current hypotheses include a common causal pathway and a mechanistic pathway, such as reduced cognitive stimulation. Future research could examine these pathways to identify their possible contributions as mediators of this relationship. This would guide future clinical trials which aim to ameliorate possible cognitive decline due to hearing loss.
Disclosures: This research was supported by DeafHear and the Central Remedial Clinic. No other disclosures were reported.
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David G. Loughrey, Michelle E. Kelly, George A. Kelley, Sabina Brennan, Brian A. Lawlor. Association of Age-Related Hearing Loss With Cognitive Function, Cognitive Impairment, and DementiaA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online December 07, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2017.2513
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