Importance: Hearing loss (HL) may be a modifiable risk factor for dementia, and longitudinal studies are needed to examine the association of HL and dementia.
Objective: To investigate the association of HL with incident dementia in Taiwanese adults in the general population.
Design, setting, and participants: This population-based cohort study collected data from the National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan. Patients newly diagnosed with HL from January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2011 (n = 8135), constituted the exposed (HL) group. The HL group patients were matched by sex, age, residence, and insurance premium to individuals without HL (non-HL group) (n = 8135). Data were analyzed from January 1, 2000, to December 31, 2013.
Exposure: Hearing loss defined according to International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes.
Main outcomes and measures: Dementia classified according to ICD-9-CM codes.
Results: Of a total of 16 270 participants (9286 [57.1%] men; mean [SD] age, 65.2 [11.1] years), 1868 developed dementia. The dementia incidence rate in the HL group was higher than that in the non-HL group (19.38 [95% CI, 18.25-20.57] per 1000 person-years vs 13.98 [95% CI, 13.01-15.00] per 1000 person-years) during the follow-up period. In the fully adjusted multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression model applied for risk analysis, patients with HL had a significant risk of dementia (hazard ratio [HR], 1.17; 95% CI, 1.07-1.29; false discovery rate [FDR] P = .003). Subgroup analysis revealed that, among 3 age groups (45-64, 65-74, and ≥75 years), the group aged 45 to 64 years was associated with a risk of dementia (HR, 2.21 [95% CI, 1.57-3.12]; FDR P < .001). In sensitivity analysis, the presence of HL among those aged 45 to 64 years (HR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.12-1.75; FDR P = .01) was associated with a risk of dementia.
Conclusions and relevance: In this study, hearing loss was positively associated with a risk of dementia, especially in patients aged 45 to 64 years. Hearing protection, screening, and treatment may be used as strategies for mitigating this potential risk factor.