The link between hearing loss and the 4D tetrad


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In early January, important research findings from a French team looking at the association between hearing loss and the 4D tetrad (depression, dementia, dependence and death) were published in The Journals of Gerontology.

The studies were carried out by a team at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) located in Bordeaux, south-western France, led by Prof. Hélène Amieva. The group presented preliminary results in 2016 and interim results one year later on the influence of hearing loss on the 4D tetrad on the basis of questionnaires and follow-up of the PAQUID cohort. PAQUID included 3,777 people 65 years of age or older who were followed up from 1988 to 2004 in this region of France.

The statistical analyses show that for depression, dementia and dependence, there is an increased risk in people with hearing deficits, and that this increased risk is not observed in people who have hearing aids. Concerning mortality, however, no elevated risk was identified for the hearing-impaired population.

“These results highlight the importance of assessing the consequences of treating hearing loss in [the elderly] in further studies,” the authors conclude. This is precisely the direction taken by another team led by Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland. At the Ifos congress in June 2017, Dr Lin explained that the only way to discover whether treating hearing loss helps to slow cognitive decline or dementia is to implement randomized studies. Following this method, one group would have hearing aids while another would serve as the control. This is what we are currently setting up at our institution. We already have a pilot study in 40 patients from 70 to 84 years of age, and for the trial we have recruited about 850 participants. Initial results are not expected before 2022.

Source: Amieva H. et al, Death, Depression, Disability and Dementia Associated with Self-Reported Hearing Problems: a 25-Year Study. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, glx250; Audioinfos.