This is a Discovery Research Grant awarded to Dr Sally Dawson at University College London in 2021. We’re funding this grant in partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Both dementia and hearing loss are common conditions in older people and both have a significant impact on the quality of life of millions of people in the UK.
Recently, a link has been found that suggests people who develop hearing loss as they get older are at a higher risk of also developing dementia. As yet, we don’t understand the nature of this link. Researchers around the world are studying the link, and are investigating various possible explanations.
However, there’s not yet any clear-cut evidence to support or disprove any of these ideas. But as current treatment options for both conditions are limited, there is an urgent need to better understand the link and its implications for developing better treatments.
In this study, dementia and hearing researchers based at University College London will work together to jointly address this lack of evidence. By using their combined expertise, they’ll analyse data from the largest existing genetic studies for which there is data on both hearing ability and dementia status. These studies contain data from hundreds of thousands of people, and so are powerful tools to carry out this kind of study.
By using modern genetic analysis techniques, the researchers will look for evidence of common inherited causes that might underlie both hearing loss and dementia. They’ll also look at interactions between hearing, dementia and other medical data collected in these studies such as cardiovascular health and brain imaging data to see if they might playing a role.
In a subset of people in the study, these measures have been repeated over several years, which will allow the researchers to track the progression of dementia in people with and without hearing loss to see if there are differences.
The findings from this project may help to better define the link seen between hearing loss and dementia, providing a better understanding of both conditions. This will speed up the development of new treatments to reverse or slow the progression of both hearing loss and dementia.