This is a Discovery Project Grant awarded to Dr Piers Dawes at the University of Manchester in 2019. We are co-funding this grant in partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK.
As the population gets older, there are more people living with hearing loss or dementia (or both). Research shows that hearing loss in mid-life is associated with an increased risk of dementia in later life. However, these studies do not tell us why that is.
There are several possible explanations for the link. Hearing loss could be a direct cause of dementia, or both hearing loss and dementia could be caused by another as yet unknown factor. As the incidence of both conditions is increasing, we need to understand the link between them. We also need to know whether treating hearing loss (for example, with hearing aids) can help to prevent dementia.
The researchers will test whether hearing loss causes dementia, either directly or indirectly. For example, hearing loss may lead to social isolation, which may then increase the risk of dementia. They will also assess whether wearing hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia.
The team will use advanced statistical methods to look at the relationships between hearing, cognitive changes and dementia. They will use several large databases containing hearing and cognitive data from thousands of people around the world. They will study the effect of changes in brain structure, general health, social engagement, and other factors on hearing, cognitive changes and dementia. This will allow them to better define the links between them.
This research will lead to a better understanding of the link between hearing loss and dementia. It’ll also show whether identifying and addressing hearing problems can reduce the risk of dementia in later life. This could make a huge difference to many millions of people in the future.