New research shows vision and hearing loss may raise risk of dementia in older adults – Alzheimer’s Society comment

New research presented today (Sunday 14th July) at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) found that experiencing multiple sensory impairments, such as vision and hearing problems, is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia in older adults.

Research from the University of Washington School of Public Health showed that impairment of either vision or hearing increases the risk of developing dementia, and that impairment in both senses further increases those odds.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco studied the combined effects of loss of smell, touch, vision and hearing; they found that even impairments in multiple senses were associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline.

Dr James Pickett, head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, says:

'The link between dementia and hearing loss was first highlighted by research we supported two years ago.

'This research takes the findings a step further, suggesting that having hearing, vision and smell loss together may add up to cause a further increase in the risk of developing dementia.  

'There has been debate in the research community about whether these sensory impairments are actually an early symptoms of dementia, but these studies start to refute this, having followed people with hearing and vision loss for up to ten years.

'We still don’t know whether correcting impairments with glasses and hearing aids could make a difference to a person’s dementia risk.

'While we wait for a definitive answer, it’s important to remember that vision and hearing loss is extremely common as we age and not assume that it’s a sign of dementia.

'If you want to lower your risk, keep your brain and body healthy through exercise, good eating and staying active.'