Hearing loss is a major risk factor for developing dementia

A study looking at the modifiable risk factors that can cause dementia has found hearing loss in middle age is a major risk factor for developing dementia in later life.

It might sound rather strange but the researchers have an excellent explanation for this.

Hearing loss can deny people a cognitively rich environment and lead to social isolation and depression. Both these are also risk factors for dementia.

The study found a number of risk factors for developing dementia that we can ALL do something about. Here are a the other recommended ways to reduce your risks of developing dementia in later life:

  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Seek early treatment for depression

This probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise as we all are becoming increasingly aware of how important lifestyle and mental health is at determining our overall health.

However you might be surprised to hear that almost 1/10th of the risk of developing dementia is down to not looking after our ears and hearing properly. Hearing actually turned out to be the most major risk factor determined in this study.

Take care of those ears!

Dr Claudia

Ear wax care

When NOT to have ear syringing

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence have compiled the following list of circumstances in which they do not recommend ear syringing/irrigation:

Contraindications, cautions and warnings

  • Do not use ear irrigation to remove wax for people with:
    • A history of any previous problem with irrigation (pain, perforation, severe vertigo).
    • Current perforation of the tympanic membrane.
    • A history of perforation of the tympanic membrane in the last 12 months. Not all experts would agree with this — some would advise that any history of a perforation at any time, even one that has been surgically repaired, is a contraindication to irrigation because a healed perforation may have a thin area which would be more prone to re-perforation.
    • Grommets in place.
    • A history of any ear surgery (except extruded grommets within the last 18 months, with subsequent discharge from an Ear Nose and Throat department).
    • A mucus discharge from the ear (which may indicate an undiagnosed perforation) within the past 12 months.
    • A history of a middle ear infection in the previous 6 weeks.
    • Cleft palate, whether repaired or not.
    • Acute otitis externa with an oedematous ear canal and painful pinna.
    • Presence of a foreign body, including vegetable matter, in the ear. Hygroscopic matter, such as peas or lentils, will expand on contact with water making removal more difficult.
    • Hearing in only one ear if it is the ear to be treated, as there is a remote chance that irrigation could cause permanent deafness.
    • Confusion or agitation, as they may be unable to sit still.
    • Inability to cooperate, for example young children and some people with learning difficulties.
  • Use ear irrigation with caution in people with:
    • Vertigo, as this may indicate the presence of middle ear disease with perforation of the tympanic membrane.
    • Recurrent otitis media with or without documented tympanic membrane perforation, as thin scars on the tympanic membrane can easily be perforated.
    • An immunocompromised state, especially older people with diabetes, as there is an increased risk of infection from iatrogenic trauma to the external auditory canal in this group of people.
  • Careful instrumentation should be employed in people who are taking anticoagulants due to increased bleeding risk.
  • Warn people with a history of recurrent otitis externa or tinnitus that ear irrigation may aggravate their symptoms.

Dr Claudia Pastides

Ear wax care

4 weird and wonderful ear wax facts!

Although a nuisance for some, ear wax is actually a very useful and natural healthy substance produced by our ears.

It helps to keep our ears clean, well lubricated and prevents them from getting too wet.

But did you know the following weird and wonderful facts?


Ear wax was the first ever lip balm!  Back in the 1800s there are reports of explorers recommending its use to prevent their lips from chapping.          


Wax contains an enzyme which can break down the cell walls of bacteria.  For this reason earwax is thought to be protective to an extent against infections of the ear canal.


It can apparently help to cure herpes/cold sores! Russian scientists have discovered that the cerumen (earwax) of some mammals does indeed contain antistaphylococcal, antimicrococcal and antiherpes properties.

You can read an abstract from the study on pubmed here, “The anti-infective properties of mammalian earwax”


Wax helps to prevent insects from crawling into ears and can stop the insect from going too far and potentially causing any damage.  (Whilst we are here talking about insects in ears…did you know which is the most common insect to crawl into ear canals?  Cockroaches! Yes, someone has actually done a study into this!)

So there you have it, 4 weird (and slightly gross…) facts!

Dr Claudia Pastides