Association between hearing aid use and all-cause and cause-specific dementia: An analysis of the UK Biobank cohort

Document Type



Office of the Provost; Cardiology


Background: Dementia and hearing loss are both highly prevalent conditions among older adults. We aimed to examine the association between hearing aid use and risk of all-cause and cause-specific dementia among middle-aged and older-aged adults, and to explore the roles of mediators and moderators in their association.
Methods: We used data from the UK Biobank, a population-based cohort study, which recruited adults aged 40-69 years between 2006 and 2010 across 22 centres in England, Scotland, and Wales. We used Cox proportional hazards models to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs between self-reported hearing aid use status (hearing loss with or without hearing aids) at baseline and risk of dementia (all-cause dementia, Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, and non-Alzheimer's disease non-vascular dementia). Dementia diagnoses were ascertained using hospital records and death-register data. We also analysed the roles of mediators (self-reported social isolation, loneliness, and mood) and moderators (self-reported education and income, smoking, morbidity, and measured APOE allele status).
Findings: After the exclusion of people who did not answer the question on hearing difficulties (n=25 081 [5·0%]) and those with dementia at baseline visit (n=283 [0·1%]), we included 437 704 people in the analyses. Compared with participants without hearing loss, people with hearing loss without hearing aids had an increased risk of all-cause dementia (HR 1·42 [95% CI 1·29-1·56]); we found no increased risk in people with hearing loss with hearing aids (1·04 [0·98-1·10]). The positive association of hearing aid use was observed in all-cause dementia and cause-specific dementia subtypes (Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, and non-Alzheimer's disease non-vascular dementia). The attributable risk proportion of dementia for hearing loss was estimated to be 29·6%. Of the total association between hearing aid use and all-cause dementia, 1·5% was mediated by reducing social isolation, 2·3% by reducing loneliness, and 7·1% by reducing depressed mood.
Interpretation: In people with hearing loss, hearing aid use is associated with a risk of dementia of a similar level to that of people without hearing loss. With the postulation that up to 8% of dementia cases could be prevented with proper hearing loss management, our findings highlight the urgent need to take measures to address hearing loss to improve cognitive decline.
Funding: National Natural Science Foundation of China and Shandong Province, Taishan Scholars Project, China Medical Board, and China Postdoctoral Science Foundation.

Publication (Name of Journal)

The Lancet. Public health