THE WASHINGTON POST – Hearing aids are now available over the counter without a prescription, a potential game changer for hearing and brain health.
The greater availability of hearing aids could improve the lives of those with untreated mild to moderate hearing loss and also mitigate the risk of dementia for millions of people in the United States.
Dementia is one of the biggest health obstacles to aging well. It is irreversible, but we can reduce our risk of getting it. One important, and historically underappreciated, way of preventing it is addressing hearing loss. By taking care of our hearing, we can also take care of our brains.
More than 50 million people were living with dementia worldwide in 2019. This number is expected to grow with an aging population: More than 130 million people are forecast to be living with dementia in 2050.
Hearing loss in middle age — ages 45 to 65 — is the most significant risk factor for dementia, accounting for more than 8 percent of all dementia cases, research suggests.
A 2020 Lancet report calculated that hearing loss approximately doubles the risk of dementia, akin to the increased risk caused by a traumatic brain injury.
In addition, because hearing ability exists on a continuum, even subclinical hearing loss can mean a greater risk for dementia.
As a way of reducing the occurrence of dementia, addressing hearing loss is a win-win, said Frank Lin, the director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“It’s really common, it’s treatable, and there are interventions that come at no risk” that are underutilized, he said.
Preserving our ability to hear is foundational to public health “strategies that can best optimize the health of older adult population, so older adults are living a long and full life till the very, very end,” Lin said …