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Partnering with hearing experts to deliver the best care possible


As the connections between hearing loss, cognition and health become clearer, the future of audiology is rapidly changing – with an increasing focus on more holistic hearing health.  

It’s a complex and fast-moving landscape but rest assured – we’ll guide you on this journey with the latest research, tools, training and more. 

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5 min read
The Loss Effect

In part one of this special series, we turn the spotlight to quality of life – asking what are the potential health consequences of an untreated hearing loss?

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As the old adage goes – nothing is permanent except change. That’s the simple reality when it comes to hearing. As we get older, the inner ear structures that process sound for the brain gradually break down or become damaged. And unlike other parts of the body, our inner ear cells can’t regenerate, leading to a potential decline in hearing.

It’s perhaps no surprise then that more than 65% of the global population above the age of 60 experience some degree of hearing loss. And within this age group, 25% are experiencing moderate or higher-grade hearing loss1.

As most audiologists will know, age-related hearing loss can be a challenging and frustrating reality for people. Not only for those who have it, but also for the loved ones around them. And its impact can go far beyond a declining sense.


Today, there’s a wealth of evidence indicating how the impact of unaddressed or untreated hearing loss in adults can have a significant impact on overall health – particularly when it comes to quality of life. But just how far reaching can these consequences be?

No matter the degree or stage of hearing loss, it can impact our social, mental, emotional, cognitive, even physical health. Some of the most immediate challenges lie within everyday listening and communication – affecting a person’s ability to talk, share and connect with others in their day-to-day life.

With compromised communication can come social isolation and loneliness. Studies show that an impaired ability to comprehend auditory information and maintain conversations may lead to an avoidance of potentially embarrassing social situations by the affected individual2. And it’s this gradual withdrawal from the world which can lead to a growing sense of loneliness.

Hearing loss and comorbidities

The knock of effect of social isolation and loneliness, of course, can be an increased risk of other psychological or cognitive health issues. Ranging from stress, anxiety, and depression to serious cognitive decline and dementia3.

As we’ve explored in other articles on LISTEN TO THIS, hearing loss has been identified as the biggest potentially modifiable risk factor for dementia – accounting for more cases of dementia than other risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking or head injuries.4

On top of this, many studies shed light on the range of other comorbidities linked to hearing loss, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, mobility restrictions, stroke, arthritis, and cancer. For all these conditions, the prevalence appears to be larger in people experiencing hearing loss, while some studies have found increased rates in those with a hearing loss.5

from individual to societal

It’s clear that hearing loss has the potential to negatively impact a person’s quality of life – whether physically, mentally, or socially. And now there’s good evidence to indicate that its affect can be felt even further in terms of poorer education attainment, employment opportunities, economic independence, and productivity in the workplace.6

In this HEARING FOR LIFE series, we’ll deep dive into all these implications and more around life quality – examining just how an untreated hearing loss can affect not only our bodies and brains but also the people, environments, and communities around us.

In part two, we’ll further explore the connection between hearing loss and physical health – looking at the potentially adverse health outcomes.  

5 min read
Why hearing loss matters

Let’s be clear – hearing loss isn’t simply an inconvenience of getting older. For audiology experts, it’s a public health issue where we can make a significant impact

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Hearing. That precious gift of sound helping us to connect to the people and world around us. A sense so common to everyday life it’s easy to take for granted. So much so that hearing loss is often just seen as a nuisance or an inevitable consequence of ageing.   

But the fact is hearing loss is more than a loss of sound; it can be a serious loss of health. Because when it remains unaddressed, it can negatively impact so many aspects of our lives. Potentially bringing mental, emotional, physical, or cognitive health issues1

Evidence shows how hearing loss can lead to social isolation, loneliness and depression, physical problems with balance, and cognitive decline – even a greater risk of dementia and other chronic diseases2. And yet, many people still underestimate the impact of hearing loss.

Untreated and underserved 

Today, more than 1.5 billion people experience some degree of hearing loss. And by 2050 this number is set to grow to 2.5 billion. It’s also estimated that 5% of the current global population – some 430 million people – require care and rehabilitation to address their hearing loss. Which if untreated could impact their quality of life3.

Statistics like these highlight how there’s a significant and growing number of people with hearing loss who are being untreated or underserved. A reality which is ultimately impacting both the health of individuals and the health of society. 

According to the World Health Organization, for example, unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual cost of over $980 billion. A figure that includes costs related to health care, education, productivity losses, and societal costs4. But this may only be scratching the surface. Because the more we learn about hearing loss, the more we can expect figures like these to keep rising. 

A time to act

The good news, of course, is that addressing hearing loss with hearing aids can help to improve hearing and speech. As these are solutions that come with virtually no health risks and can only have a positive impact on our ability to communicate and engage with others5.  

But good hearing care isn’t just about the immediate need to treat and manage hearing loss. It’s also about long-term preventative health – particularly when it comes to reducing associated health risks such as cognitive decline and dementia. 

The question then is are we doing enough? If we know that hearing aids can help prevent serious health problems and improve quality of life, shouldn’t everyone else know this too?


This is exactly the mission of LISTEN TO THIS. We want to get the urgent story out there that an underserved population with hearing loss is an opportunity to not only deliver better hearing care but better health care. That by joining forces, we can keep uncovering more evidence while finding innovative new solutions. 

Together, and with your support, we can help to bring hearing care to everyone who needs it. One ear at a time. 

Want to know more about the growing link between hearing and brain health? 

Check out the story so far here.

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5 min read
Hearing health

With growing evidence around the connection between hearing loss and cognition, what will this mean for patient conversations?

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As a hearing care professional, you’ll know how crucial it is to have clear and carefully planned discussions with your patients. Because for many, talking about their hearing needs or concerns can be a sensitive topic. 

And now, with new research further supporting the link between hearing loss and dementia, cognition is fast becoming the hot topic in audiology. But does this mean everyone should be talking about it with patients? 

If you’ve asked yourself this question let’s talk… 

Do I really need to be thinking about dementia? 

Jumping headfirst into a dialogue about dementia and any potential risk factors would be an alarming prospect for any patient. That’s why it’s always best to start and focus the discussion firmly around hearing care and its holistic benefits, including:

  • How we hear and understand with our brain – as well as our ears 
  • How cognition is a key part of processing speech and interpreting sounds
  • How helping your hearing can help to maintain good cognitive function 
  • How good hearing health can positively impact your overall quality of life 

In this way, any conversation around hearing intervention can be framed as a positive and natural part of supporting good hearing health, good cognitive health, and overall wellbeing. 

What if a patient brings up the cognition topic?    

If you’re talking with patients about any noticeable hearing difficulties, conversation strains, or tiredness after socialising, then cognition is in many ways already part of that discussion.    

But with new research and ongoing studies, we know more about the relationship between hearing and cognitive health than ever before:

  • Hearing loss is the single largest potentially modifiable risk factor for dementia1
  • Hearing aid users are at a significantly lower risk of developing all-cause dementia2
  • Hearing aids have been shown to slow the rate of cognitive decline by 48%3

However, for patients, what’s perhaps more important is that any facts like these become a catalyst to help them feel informed and empowered to take a proactive role around their hearing health.  

How exactly can hearing loss affect the brain? 

A common patient question might be how does hearing loss impact the brain? Or rather, how can helping your hearing, help your brain? According to Johns Hopkins professor Dr Frank R. Lin, there are three main pathways from hearing loss to cognitive impairment:

  • The first is related to cognitive load, meaning that poor hearing can overwork the brain at the expense of thinking and memory
  • The second is down to brain structure and function – that if the brain isn't getting enough auditory input, parts of it may shrink
  • Thirdly, that hearing loss can cause someone to become socially isolated, another possible contributor to brain atrophy

The theory, of course, is that good hearing can target all these pathways: reducing load on the brain, providing more stimulation, and helping you be more engaged in life.

Should I be looking out for signs of decline? 

It’s well documented that dementia is an under-diagnosed disease due in large part to hesitancy and stigma4. And that there are a range of common early signs of cognitive decline5 which can be detected. 

But as a hearing care professional, it’s important to keep in mind that talking about cognitive health with a patient doesn’t constitute a thorough evaluation or diagnosis. 

However, if you’re spending time with a patient over several visits, this could be a good opportunity for staying alert to hearing and cognitive issues that may require a screening, referral, or further consultation. 

Want to know more?

Look out for future LET’S TALK stories where we’ll be diving deeper into some practical tools and knowhow to help you integrate cognition into your clinical conversations.

5 min read
The fight against dementia

With rates of dementia rising globally, we explore an emerging path to prevention within the world of audiology

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Every three seconds. That’s the rate as which someone in the world develops dementia today. And looking ahead, the number of people living with this disease is projected to soar from 55 million in 2020 to more than 139 million by 20501

The reality is that while many of us are living longer, healthier lives thanks to continual improvements in health and social care, the global population is seeing an increasingly larger proportion of older people. A demographic often at higher risk of developing dementia. 

According to recent data, dementia is the seventh leading cause of death and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people globally2. All of which begs the question, just what can be done to turn the tide?

Reducing the risks

On paper, dementia is the umbrella term for several diseases affecting memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities. But in real terms, it’s a condition that could potentially overwhelm society – not only impacting those living with it but caregivers, families, communities, and healthcare systems.  

Though there’s been some advances in recent years in terms of access to care, dementia is still an under-diagnosed and under-treated disease without a cure3. Identifying effective prevention strategies that can reduce the population-level risks of dementia is becoming a growing priority for governments around the world.   

Because while the numbers are rising, dementia isn’t an inevitable part of aging. The research consistently indicates that it can be delayed or prevented by targeting a series of modifiable risk factors – both big and small. 

Hearing loss has been identified as the single largest potentially modifiable risk factor for dementia

According the 2020 Lancet report on dementia prevention, there are 12 potentially modifiable risk factors. These include everything from smoking, obesity and diabetes to excessive alcohol, air pollution, and hearing impairment – the latter identified as the single largest factor.  

The theory is that if we can modify all these risk factors then we might prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases worldwide4. And given the evidence available, the Lancet report is keen to stress that it’s never too early nor too late in the life course for dementia prevention. 

Together acting early 

It’s clear that lifestyle factors such as education, diet, exercise, and social interaction are hugely important in reducing the risks of dementia. Yet the reality is that not all risk factors are easily modifiable by individuals on their own – despite their best intentions. 

And considering the eye-watering projections for dementia – the annual cost of dementia is now above US$ 1.3 trillion and is expected to rise to US$ 2.8 trillion by 20305 – public health bodies, policymakers and more will need to work decisively together to reduce the human and economic costs of dementia.

One area where we can expect to see a movement towards greater preventative management is within the world of hearing and audiology. Particularly since recent research now offers tantalizing evidence that treating hearing loss could slow the rate of cognitive decline for high-risk adults by almost 50%6.

An ear to the future 

If the science keeps showing that hearing intervention can significantly modify cognitive decline, then we can expect a bright new future where digital tools, ambitious care partnerships, and innovative support services are widespread within audiology. 

This, of course, will mean more advanced hearing solutions, such as new in-ear sensors and vocal biomarker technologies – utilizing brain health data to empower end-users in self-monitoring and early intervention. 

But perhaps more importantly we’ll see a major change in the way audiology care is delivered – with greater awareness around holistic hearing health, increased access to hearing and cognitive screenings, and ultimately better patient outcomes. 

Together, healthcare providers, policymakers, NGOs, and institutions can drive the movement towards better hearing health

To help drive this change, we’ll need a new partnership landscape of healthcare providers, policymakers, NGOs, and institutions – all advocating for hearing health as a critical factor of our overall health. This will enable earlier, more accurate screenings for dementia as well as better assessments for cognitive decline interventions. 

Shifting the narrative 

All signs point to a potential large-scale shift and movement in how society considers the value of hearing and hearing solutions – that proactive hearing management and the interventions could play a key role in reducing or even preventing the risk of developing dementia. 

As this shift happens, audiology experts will not only be in position to empower more people to take care of their hearing and cognitive health. They’ll be at the vanguard of prevention – enabling better health outcomes for patients and caregivers while helping alleviate the long-term societal costs of dementia. 

Welcome to the future of hearing health.  

As the hearing and dementia story evolves, what will this mean for patients? 

We explore the implications here

Hearing and the brain
5 min read
The story so far

Hearing health and brain health. It’s a unique relationship that’s getting increasingly more and more attention – but why?

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If you’ve been following audiology news recently, chances are you’ve heard about ACHIEVE: the landmark study to determine whether treating hearing loss in older adults could reduce cognitive decline – a potential precursor to dementia. The study’s positive results (see below) have understandably generated a lot of media buzz. But for many audiology experts, the findings support what they’ve suspected for years. That hearing health is vital to overall health, which is why addressing hearing loss can play a key role in promoting cognitive wellbeing. In fact, events over the past decade have increasingly added weight to the hearing and dementia connection. With new research taking this story from enticing to now potentially enormous. Let’s look back at some of the major milestones so far… A connection is made In a watershed 2011 study, Johns Hopkins professor Dr Frank R. Lin and colleagues find that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. In fact, those with mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss had a respective twofold, threefold, and fivefold risk of developing dementia. Put simply, the higher the hearing loss, the higher the likelihood of developing this chronic condition. Opening up for more Continuing his run of research, another Lin-led study finds that hearing impairment in older adults is independently associated with accelerated cognitive decline and incident dementia. The study wasn’t yet able to explore if hearing aid use could moderate this association, paving the way for more investigation around hearing loss interventions. Stronger evidence needed Despite the growing link between hearing loss and cognitive decline, there’s caution around whether hearing interventions can delay the onset of dementia. As demonstrated by new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines stating that there’s insufficient evidence to recommend the use of hearing aids to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Potentially modifiable risk factors In a Lancet Commission report on dementia prevention, intervention, and care, hearing loss is listed as the biggest potentially modifiable risk factor out of 12. These are factors that might prevent or delay up to 40% of dementias. And as protection against dementia, this meta-analysis report states that hearing aids appear to reduce the excess risk associated with hearing loss. The hearing aid effect A new study in the peer-reviewed Alzheimer's & Dementia journal sets out to examine for the first time the effect of hearing aid usage in the conversion from mild cognitive impairment to dementia. The study finds that hearing aid users with a hearing impairment are at a significantly lower risk of developing all-cause dementia – a conclusion that demands further testing. A real turning point The arrival of the eagerly-anticipated ACHIEVE study – once again led by Dr Frank R. Lin – marks a new chapter in this ever-evolving story. Among its many results, the study finds that for people at higher risk of cognitive decline, hearing intervention could slow its progression by 48%. Suggesting that maintaining good hearing may lower the risk of developing dementia. As the past decade has shown, a lot’s happened to establish hearing loss as one of the potentially biggest risk factors for developing dementia. And now there’s potential proof that intervening with hearing aids may actually reduce this risk. Clearly, more investigation is needed to see how hearing aids provide the cognitive benefits and to better understand the longer-term benefits of hearing intervention. But one thing’s for sure – this is a fast-moving story where audiology experts will do well to get ahead of the curve. Watch this space… [[CTA section]] Want to know more about what the landmark ACHIEVE study tells us? We review the story here

One minute stories

ACHIEVE is a landmark study of the effect of hearing intervention on brain health in older adults. But what exactly does it tell us? We review the story in 60 seconds

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Want to know more about the role of hearing within dementia prevention?    

We spotlight the issue here

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