Is hearing loss an early sign of dementia?

Losing your hearing in old age could mean a 30 percent greater risk of dementia, research suggests.

The onset of clinical dementia can come five to ten years after hearing loss and is rooted in social isolation, experts believe. Scientists from Trinity College Dublin said it could provide a red flag of cognitive decline well before symptoms arrive.

And by treating the problem – even by simply giving people hearing aids – doctors might be able to ward off dementia.

The difficulty caused to communication by hearing loss means people lose access to the social interaction that evidence has shown is vital for maintaining a healthy brain.

Hearing loss could also be an early sign of an ageing body, which manifests before the brain also starts to slow down.

The research, published in the JAMA medical journal, assessed 36 previous studies of 20,300 people with hearing loss, finding a 28 per cent increased risk of dementia. Lead author David Loughrey wrote: ‘Age-related hearing loss had significant associations with accelerated cognitive decline, cognitive impairment and dementia.’