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Hearing loss has a negative impact on both our functional ability and our social and emotional well-being. It impacts our ability to communicate and participate in social activities and can impact our safety and independence as we age.
Hearing loss can also increase the risk of falling, which can have a substantial impact on a person’s short and long-term physical mobility. A recent study done by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institute of Aging found that older adults with a 25-decibel hearing loss (classified as mild) were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Furthermore, every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 140%.
Dementia risk and hearing loss
Those with moderate hearing loss are at 3-times the risk for developing dementia. In fact, it’s estimated that hearing loss accounts for 8-9% of the risk for developing dementia. This is more than the risk associated with depression and lifestyle factors such as smoking and obesity.
Things you can do about your hearing
Getting a hearing test in mid- and late-life is a good first step. If a deficit is found, there are several technologies and useful strategies that you can use on a daily basis to improve your hearing.
Be proactive about your hearing by following these 3 steps:
You can learn more about hearing loss and cognitive impairment in this video from the iGeriCare website.
Hearing loss is a significant modifiable risk factor for dementia, and is also associated with increased risks for falls and social isolation. Therefore:
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"This study has been a real eye-opener, as it has educated and informed me on concepts I previously did not associate with the risk of developing dementia." - Study participant, 25-34 years old.
"Informative, not overwhelming. It helped me to consider my own actions and allowed me to talk to my older parents to encourage them to be more proactive about their health." - Study participant, 35-44 years old.
"This is a very timely topic as I look around and see friends and relatives coping with the effects of dementia." - Study participant, 65-74 years old.
"Each topic was well focussed. The medical terminology was easy to understand and very informative." - Study participant, 65-74 years old.
Neuropsychiatrist, Professor; Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University
Who authored and edited this page?
This page was developed by the Division of e-Learning Innovation team and Dr. Anthony J. Levinson, MD, FRCPC (Psychiatry). Dr. Levinson is a psychiatrist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behaviour Neurosciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University. He is the Director of the Division of e-Learning Innovation, as well as the John Evans Chair in Health Sciences Educational Research at McMaster. He practices Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, with a special focus on dementia and neuropsychiatry. He is also the co-developer of the iGeriCare.ca dementia care partner resource, and one of the co-leads for the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal. He and his team are passionate about developing high-quality digital content to improve people's understanding about health. By the way, no computer-generated content was used on this page. Specifically, a real human (me) wrote and edited this page without the help of generative AI like ChatGPT or Bing's new AI or otherwise.
Are there any important disclosures or conflicts of interest?
Dr. Levinson receives funding from McMaster University as part of his research chair. He has also received several grants for his work from not-for-profit granting agencies. He has no conflicts of interest with respect to the pharmaceutical industry; and there were no funds from industry used in the development of this website.
When was it last reviewed?
August 22, 2023
What references and evidence were used to create this content?
Content was written and adapted based on credible, high-quality, non-biased sources such as MedlinePlus, the National Institutes for Mental Health, the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, the American Psychiatric Association, the Cochrane Library, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) and others. In particular, evidence-based content about dementia risk reduction was also derived from the World Health Organization and the Lancet Commission reports. Please see additional references on the e-learning lesson landing page.
Who funded it?
The initial development of some of this content was funded by the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation, powered by Baycrest. Subsequent funding was through support from the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, with support from the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) at McMaster University, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. There are no conflicts of interest to declare. There was no industry funding for this content.