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Hearing Loss & Dementia Among Older Americans

In a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling U.S. Medicare beneficiaries older than 65 years, a link between moderate to severe hearing loss and dementia prevalence found previously in less rigorous studies is confirmed. “Hearing aid use was associated with lower dementia prevalence, supporting public health action to improve hearing care access, including increased availability of affordable hearing aids (Over the Counter Hearing Aid Act [HR 2430, §934]) and Medicare provision of hearing aids and rehabilitation services,” the authors conclude.

Study data were obtained during round 11 (2021; 94% response rate) of NHATS (National Health and Aging Trends Study). Poisson regression of data on in-home audiometry, self-reported use of hearing aids, and scores for memory, orientation, and executive function produced these findings: “The weighted prevalence of dementia was 10.27% (95% CI, 8.90%-11.83%) and increased with increasing severity of hearing loss (normal: 6.19% [95% CI, 4.31%-8.80%]; mild: 8.93% [95% CI, 6.99%-11.34%]; moderate/severe: 16.52% [95% CI, 13.81%-19.64%]). Weighted hearing loss prevalence was 36.74% (95% CI, 34.67%-38.86%) for mild and 29.79% (95% CI, 27.47%-32.22%) for moderate to severe hearing loss. Participants with moderate to severe hearing loss were more likely to be older, male, and White and to have lower education levels compared with participants with mild hearing loss or normal hearing.… Among 853 participants with moderate to severe hearing loss, hearing aid use (n   = 414) was associated with lower prevalence of dementia compared with no hearing aid use (prevalence ratio, 0.68 [95% CI, 0.47-1.00]).”

Source: JAMA