Hearing loss is the largest modifiable risk factor for dementia, accounting for 8% of all dementia cases worldwide. A meta-analysis of 36 studies published in 2020 found that people with hearing loss had a 1.9-fold increased risk of cognitive impairment and a 1.4-fold increased risk of dementia, compared with those without hearing loss. Additionally, hearing loss may affect the brain’s structure and function, including the auditory cortex and other regions involved in cognitive processing, leading to changes in brain connectivity and neurodegeneration.
Another study published in 2021 analysed data from over 100,000 individuals and found that hearing aid use was associated with a 13% reduction in the risk of dementia, supporting public health action to improve hearing care access, including increased availability of affordable hearing aids. Other strategies for preventing cognitive decline associated with hearing loss include staying socially engaged, engaging in mentally stimulating activities, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a healthy diet.