Hearing loss in elderly people has been linked to an increased risk of dementia by an Australian study.
The research found "significant associations" between self-reported hearing loss and cognition, as well as increased risk for mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
The six-year study examined data from more than 1000 Australian men and women aged 70-90 who had enrolled in a Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) memory and ageing study.
People who reported moderate-to-severe hearing difficulties had poorer cognitive performances overall, particularly regarding attention, processing speed and spatial awareness.
They were also 1.5 times more likely to have mild cognitive impairment or dementia at a six-year follow-up.
Co-author and CHeBA co-director Henry Brodaty said the study was the first of its kind to identify the relationship between hearing loss and risk for mild cognitive impairment or dementia in a large Australian sample size.
The findings support the need for further research on the effect of hearing devices on cognitive function, he said.
"Studies are now emerging that hearing aids may reduce this risk," Professor Brodaty said.
The research, a collaboration between CHeBA, the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University, was published in the journal Ageing, Neuropsychology and Cognition.
In Australia, hearing loss affects 74 per cent of people aged over 70.
International studies estimate that people with severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia and addressing midlife hearing loss could prevent up to nine per cent of dementia cases.