A vital cross-sector summit was held last month, bringing together experts to discuss the connection between hearing loss as a risk factor in developing dementia, as well as highlighting the preventative role of hearing technology. The round table event was convened by the British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) on 28 February 2019 at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London.

A series of podcasts of the event’s discussion has been created in order to spread greater understanding, available for download here.

The event united audiologists, research scientists, and representatives from the media and charity sectors, to share knowledge and develop strategies to get the crucial message out into the public arena, so the proven link between the two conditions is taken seriously by individuals and policy makers.

There is growing evidence of the connection between the two conditions, including a Lancet study which showed that mid-life hearing loss may account for up to 9.1% of preventable dementia cases worldwide and is a modifiable risk factor in developing the condition (Livingston et al – Lancet, 2018). Dr Sergi Costafreda Gonzalez, co-author of the study, attended the Round Table.

There is less research, however, into the mitigating benefits of hearing aids. A University of Manchester study showed the rate of age-related cognitive decline is 75% less following the adoption of hearing devices. Co-author of this study, Dr Asri Maharani, shared details of these findings on the day. Further studies are now underway but this remains an undeveloped area, and so last month’s forum called publicly for further trials.

The panel also called on policy makers to make this area a funding priority. As new data emerges which proves the impact of hearing aids in preventing dementia, this will provide greater economic argument for making hearing technology more available to those at risk of cognitive decline.

“The better we understand cognitive decline and why hearing aid use helps, the better we can design intervention,” commented attendee Dr Helene Amieva, author of the 25 year study, ‘Death, Depression, Disability, and Dementia Associated with Self-reported Hearing Problems’.

The panel also strongly recommended a cross-sector approach, whereby hearing loss is understood as part of a wider discussion which links with both neuroscience and social issues around isolation and wellbeing in the ageing population.

“Dementia is a condition which affects 47 million people globally and is fast becoming a social care crisis. There is no time to waste in understanding the role of hearing technology which could stem the tide of the disease, and in educating people about looking after both their hearing and cognitive health,” said the BIHIMA Chairman, Paul Surridge.

BIHIMA Panel Attendees:

  • Paul Surridge, BIHIMA Chairman
  • Helene Amieva, PhD, Author of: ‘Death, Depression, Disability, and Dementia Associated with Self-reported Hearing Problems: A 25-Year Study’, Inserm, University of Bordeaux
  • Dr Sergi Costafreda Gonzalez, Co-author of the Study: ‘Dementia prevention, intervention and care, Lancet’, University College London
  • Tony Gunnell, Audiologist (BIHIMA representative)
  • Peter Kunzmann, Head of Research and Policy, Action on Hearing Loss
  • Brian Lamb, Associate of The Ear Foundation and Chair of the Hearing Loss and Deafness Alliance and the Action Group on Adult Cochlear Implantation
  • Dr Asri Maharani, Co-author of the Study: ‘Longitudinal Relationship Between Hearing Aid Use and Cognitive Function in Older Americans’, University of Manchester

More details can be found here.

About BIHIMA:

– BIHIMA represents the hearing instrument manufacturers of Britain and Ireland, working in partnership with other professional, trade, regulatory and consumer organisations within the health care and charitable sectors. We raise consumer awareness about the latest hearing technology, and aim to influence government and policy makers to improve the lives of people with hearing difficulties.

– For further information visit www.bihima.com.

Please contact olivia@olivecommunicate.com / 07879 646 742 for further information.