Seniors who have insufficient or poor ability to hear speech in noise also have an increased risk of developing dementia, according to a British study.

A study among more than 80,000 British seniors has found a strong relationship between problems hearing speech-in noise and dementia.

In the study, 82,039 dementia-free participants aged 60 years or older were selected from the UK Biobank. UK Biobank is a population-based prospective cohort study of around 500,000 women and men aged 40 to 69 years recruited between 2006 and 2010.

At the end of the study, there were 67,645 (82.5%) participants with normal speech-in-noise hearing, 11,329 (13.8%) with insufficient speech-in-noise hearing and 3,065 (3.7%) with poor speech-in-noise hearing.

Over 11 years of follow-up 1,285 of the participants developed dementia.

Insufficient and poor speech-in noise hearing were associated with a 61% and 91% increased risk of developing dementia respectively compared to normal speech-in noise hearing.

The association between speech-in-noise hearing and dementia remained similar when restricting to follow-up intervals of less than 3 years, 3 to 6 years, 6 to 9 years, and more than 9 years.

Self-reported hearing loss

The proportion of participants self-reporting hearing loss increased with worsening speech-in-noise hearing. However, 53.4% and 43.8% of participants with insufficient and poor speech-in noise hearing respectively did not self-report hearing problems.

Data in the study

In the study, speech-in-noise hearing was measured at a baseline between 2009/2010 and 2012/2013 using a Digit Triplets Test with participants categorised as normal, insufficient and poor. Dementia diagnoses were ascertained using hospital inpatient records from the Hospital Episode Statistics for England and Patient Episode Database for Wales and death register data from NHS Digital.

The study, “Speech-in-noise hearing impairment is associated with an increased risk of incident dementia in 82,039 UK Biobank participants”, was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Sources: and the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Skip to content