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A University of Oxford study involving over 80,000 adults 60 and older found speech-in-noise (SiN) hearing loss accounted for the most risk of developing dementia. SiN hearing is a person's ability to detect and correctly interpret speech with background noise.

Why it matters

  • The study added to evidence that hearing loss is a risk factor for dementia. Think of hearing loss as an early-warning system that people, families, and doctors should monitor and treat before steep declines in cognitive performance start.
  • Simple sound amplification with OTC hearing aids might not adequately address SiN impairment.
  • SiN hearing loss is best addressed with more sophisticated hearing-aid technology.
  • Roughly half the people in the study with deficient SiN hearing didn't notice any hearing loss. This only highlights the vital role of hearing screenings in detecting hearing loss.

What to know: Hearing loss is a slow, imperceptible process for most people. You need a reference point, which annual hearing screenings provide. Then you can compare your hearing results from year to year and treat your hearing loss as soon as needed.

…these results suggest speech-in-noise hearing impairment could represent a promising target for dementia prevention," said the study author and epidemiologist, Thomas Littlejohns of the University of Oxford.


Modifiable risk factors

A 2017 report in The Lancet identified nine major, modifiable risk factors of dementia. Three more risk factors were added to an updated 2020 report.

Hearing loss might be the most worthy of attention of the 12 modifiable risk factors in the Lancet report because people with untreated hearing loss in midlife are up to five times more likely to develop dementia.

The keyword there is modifiable: These risk factors are elements of our lifestyle and general health that can be improved, and if so, may boost our overall health and reduce the odds of health conditions. —ScienceAlert


  • The University of Oxford study identified the significance of SiN hearing loss and dementia. This is an important finding because, as we all know, noisy environments are more representative of everyday life.
  • Don't guess about hearing loss. Find out with annual hearing screenings done by an audiologist. It’s next to impossible to tell if you’ve lost hearing on your own, so partner with an audiologist.

Concerned about your hearing?

Your peace of mind starts by scheduling a free, 15-minute hearing screening with an audiologist. It’s easy to find out if you have hearing loss. Don’t guess. Find out.

If you have hearing loss, your audiologist will explain

  • How much hearing you’ve lost
  • Whether your hearing needs treatment now or later
  • The most effective treatment plan

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