Hearing Loss & Dementia: Understanding & Advancing Hearing Health Equity among Persons Living with Dementia

Sensory health and cognitive impairment, including dementia, stand at the intersection of two major public health challenges. Sensory impairments are among the most common and disabling comorbidities among individuals aging with cognitive impairment yet frequently go unrecognized and unaddressed. Among sensory impairments, hearing loss is one of the most common comorbidities among persons with dementia. Prevalence estimates, based on audiometric data, range from 60 to over 90% in specialized memory clinics and approximately 70-80% among community-dwelling cohorts of older adults. As age-related conditions, the prevalence of hearing loss increases with age and is higher among those with greater severity of cognitive impairment. Proxy-rated hearing loss by care partners and healthcare providers underestimate hearing loss among older adults with cognitive impairment. Sensory impairment among individuals with cognitive impairment is associated with increased neuropsychiatric symptoms, yet persons with dementia have low rates of hearing aid use, around 20%, and face barriers to traditional clinic-based hearing care. Most persons living with dementia go untreated and disparities exist by race and ethnicity. This presentation will review current epidemiological understanding of hearing loss and its impact on persons with dementia. Furthermore, to meet the unique needs of persons with dementia, this presentation will share opportunities to provide hearing care through novel, community-delivered approaches through an equity-focused lens.