To mark World Hearing Day on 3 March 2018, the British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) is highlighting an important new study into the link between hearing loss and depression, disability, and risk of dementia in older adults. The research will be presented at debate at the European Parliament hosted by our European counterpart EHIMA during the week of World Hearing Day.

These associations have long been suspected within the hearing care sector and there is a growing body of evidence resulting from studies which have been conducted over a short time span. However, this new research which has been conducted by Helene Amieva, an neuropsychologist and epidemiologist working at Inserm in Bordeaux, has assessed candidates over a period of 25 years in order to provide more robust evidence. Specifically, 3,777 participants aged over 65 were included; of these, 1,289 reported hearing problems and 2,290 reported no trouble.

Significantly, Professor Amieva’s study found an increased risk of disability and dementia in those with hearing loss, and notably an increased risk of depression in men who reported hearing problems. In additional analyses, these negative associations were not found in the participants using hearing aids. The study also showed that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids have the same chance of staying independent as people with normal hearing.

This research not only confirms the strong link between hearing loss and the risk of disability, dementia, and depression, it also has important repercussions for how we treat hearing loss in older adults in the future.  The World Health Organisation have chosen the theme of “Hear the Future” for World Hearing Day 2018, drawing attention to the anticipated increase in the number of people with hearing loss around the world in the coming decades, due to populations living longer. Over 466 million people worldwide currently live with disabling hearing loss. It is predicted that by 2050 that figure will have risen to 900 million people (that’s nearly one in ten people).

This new research into the link with dementia and depression is even more alarming, then, showing the wide-ranging repercussions of hearing loss which could affect millions of people in the years to come.

“We welcome the efforts of the WHO, through World Hearing Day, to highlight the extent of global hearing loss, combined with this impactful research from EHIMA into the mental health repercussions,” said the BIHIMA chairman Paul Surridge. “This is yet more evidence that hearing loss is a hugely pressing issue and that governments and policy-makers around the world need to be treating it with the utmost seriousness, ensuring people have access to the hearing technology which could improve the lives of so many.”

– Helene Amieva’s full study can be read here: https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/advance-article/doi/10.1093/gerona/glx250/4783130

– 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.