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Approved Research

Understanding the links between hearing and vision impairments with cognitive decline and dementia

Principal Investigator: Dr Krisztina Mekli
Approved Research ID: 59101
Approval date: January 17th 2022

Lay summary

Sensory decline, such as hearing and vision impairments, as well as dementia are major health concerns in the ageing worldwide population. Although we know hearing and vision are associated with cognitive decline and dementia, little evidence on the nature of this relationship is available. This project aims to understand how hearing and vision impairment relate to cognitive ability, taking into account factors such as population differences in brain structure, general health, mental wellbeing and physical activity.

The study will use data from the UK Biobank, alongside four large ageing studies from Europe and the US (the English Longitudinal study of Ageing, Survey of Health and Ageing in Europe, The Irish Longitudinal Study of Ageing and the Health and Retirement Study). Statistical modelling will demonstrate the size of the effect between sensory ability and cognition, as well as the proportion of that effect attributable to the aforementioned differences in the study populations.

The UK Biobank data will be particularly useful in terms of understanding whether sensory impairment is associated with a change in brain structure, which in turn is associated with poorer cognitive outcomes. While the four ageing studies provide longitudinal data on self-reported measures of hearing and vision, data from the UK Biobank will be used to compare these measures with those which are taken objectively. The findings produced by the project will benefit people with hearing impairment as we will provide information on the importance of those people having cognitive assessment regularly and whether any intervention to improve hearing function will prevent them from cognitive decline and dementia.

 The project started in September 2019 and is currently funded until April 2022.