Management of Hearing Loss can help reduce Dementia
Managing lifestyle factors such as hearing loss, smoking, hypertension and depression could prevent one-third of the world’s dementia cases, according to a report by the first Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care. The report was published in the Lancet in July 2017.
The commission brought together 24 international experts to review existing research and to provide recommendations for treating and preventing dementia.
About 47 million people have dementia worldwide and that number is expected to climb as high as 66 million by 2030 and 115 million by 2050. The costs are huge: the costs for 2015 globally are estimated at $818 billion, with these costs set to soar with an ageing population.
The commission estimated that up to 35% of dementia cases were preventable, through measures such as managing hearing loss, reducing smoking, increasing physical exercise, treating depression, and reducing loneliness and social isolation. Hearing loss was the most significant modifying factor, accounting for a quarter of the 35% figure
In Ireland the level of untreated hearing loss is high by international standards. For example, we prescribe only half the number of hearing aids per head of population compared to the UK. A recent study found that only one on 5 people with hearing loss in Ireland have hearing aids (TILDA, 2017).
“We are not helping ourselves by making hearing aids difficult to access” says Brendan Lennon, DeafHear’s Head of Advocacy. “Unless you have a medical card, you are likely to pay several thousand euro to buy hearing aids”. He points out that this new report highlights the folly of not making it easier for people to get treatment for their hearing loss, as it is a false economy.
In its pre–budget submission to the Department of Social Protection, DeafHear concentrated on one issue only: making it easier for people to get access to hearing aids. DeafHear recommended that the Minister significantly increase the value of the PRSI Treatment Benefit Grant in 2018 for people buying hearing aids for the first time. This is based on sound evidence that shows the earlier people with hearing loss get hearing aids, the better the outcomes they experience.
“We should be encouraging people to get help for their hearing loss earlier” says Lennon. “Apart from the population health benefits for society, hearing aids have been shown to greatly improve the person’s quality of life, their relationships and their levels of happiness”.
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