The number of people with hearing loss is on the increase. It is because people are becoming more aware of their condition and are starting to use treatments and solutions. In addition, it’s estimated that untreated hearing loss can be linked to dementia.
Increase in prevalence in low-income and middle-income countries
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly two billion people worldwide have hearing loss. This number is projected to increase by 56 percent by the year 2050.
Hearing impairment affects individuals physically, emotionally and socioeconomically. It impacts a person’s cognitive and social functioning, as well as their education. However, access to hearing healthcare is not universal.
Consequently, many individuals with disabling hearing impairment cannot access a hearing aid. Therefore, healthcare systems should be prepared to deal with the projected increase in the burden of this disease. Fortunately, a wide range of cost-effective interventions is available.
The Global Burden of Diseases Study (GBD) is a large-scale study that analyses the global burden of diseases. It forecasts the prevalence of disease and mortality in 195 countries from 2017 to 2100. In addition, it also forecasts the distribution of diseases and injuries.
The GBD has found that the distribution of hearing loss is uneven across regions. Low-income and middle-income countries have higher age-standardised rates of hearing impairment than high-income and high-income regions. These differences may result from access to health care, occupational noise exposure, and preventable infections.
According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, more than 700 million people will have moderate-to-complete hearing loss by 2050. During this time, 80% of these individuals will live in low-income and middle-income countries. As a consequence, these countries will need to develop more effective interventions. They also must invest in scaling up their health systems.
The increasing prevalence of hearing loss is largely driven by population growth. There is a need for cost-effective hearing loss interventions to be introduced in LMICs. Cost-effective interventions should be supported by universal health coverage, including universal access to hearing healthcare.
Despite the increased prevalence of hearing impairment, limited resources exist to address it. While hearing aids can improve communication, education, and self-esteem, they are often unavailable in LMICs. Furthermore, ear specialists are scarce in these countries. A lack of trained professionals makes the delivery of health services a difficult task. Thus, a multi-disciplinary approach to hearing healthcare is needed.
Untreated hearing loss can lead to dementia
Hearing loss is often untreated and is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia. According to a recent study, mild or moderate hearing loss can significantly increase your chances of developing dementia, while severe hearing loss increases the risk by fivefold over ten years.
There is a lot of research going on in this area. Researchers are trying to uncover the correlation between hearing loss and cognitive performance, or dementia. Several studies have found that individuals with hearing loss experience a faster rate of mental decline than those with normal hearing. The latest research reveals that the exact connection between hearing loss and dementia is still unclear.
One way to minimise the risk of developing dementia is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a social network. Studies have shown that loneliness is linked to a higher risk of dementia. It is because lonely people tend to have weakened immune systems, high blood pressure, and elevated stress hormones.
It’s not hard to see why. With the world’s population getting older, the prevalence of dementia is expected to rise by 50% over the next 30 years. Dementia is a brain disease that affects memory, thinking, and problem-solving abilities.
Among the most common symptoms are confusion during conversation and changes in the ways we communicate. Untreated hearing loss is one of the nine major risk factors for dementia and is likely to be overlooked. However, early detection is the first step in preventing this disease.
While it’s still not clear how the link between hearing loss and dementia is triggered, it’s clear that both conditions affect the brain. The brain cells and neural circuitry shrink as we age, making it harder to process information.
One of the most exciting developments in the hearing health space is the possibility of an early intervention program from Audi Hearing that could reduce the risk of dementia. More studies are expected to reveal the connections between hearing loss and cognitive performance and how these relationships can be addressed with effective hearing health care.