Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Connection?

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Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will probably put a dark cloud above the entire event.

The subject of dementia can be very scary and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, makes you lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory, and brings about a general loss of mental function. Nobody wants to experience that.

For this reason, many people are looking for a way to counter, or at least slow, the development of dementia. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have several pretty clear connections and correlations.

You might be surprised by that. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the dangers of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the consequences?

Maybe you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you aren’t that concerned about it. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your tv won’t solve, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

Or maybe your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Perhaps the signs are still hard to detect. Cognitive decline and hearing impairment are clearly connected either way. That might have something to do with what occurs when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. You could start to keep yourself isolated from others as a result of this. You may become distant from loved ones and friends. You speak to others less. It’s bad for your brain to isolate yourself this way. And naturally your social life. Further, most people who have this kind of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stay with us). This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This is incredibly taxing. The present theory is, when this occurs, your brain draws power from your thought and memory centers. The thinking is that over time this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Your brain working so hard can also result in all kinds of other symptoms, such as mental fatigue and exhaustion.

So your hearing loss isn’t quite as innocuous as you may have suspected.

One of the leading indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you have only slight hearing loss. Whispers might get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, even with that, your risk of developing dementia is doubled.

Which means that even mild hearing loss is a fairly strong initial sign of a risk of dementia.

Now… What does that suggest?

We’re looking at risk in this situation which is relevant to note. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of dementia or even an early symptom of dementia. Rather, it simply means you have a greater chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But that could actually be good news.

Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by successfully managing your hearing loss. So how do you deal with your hearing loss? There are numerous ways:

  • Using a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids prevent cognitive decline? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we recognize that brain function can be improved by wearing hearing aids. Here’s why: You’ll be able to participate in more conversations, your brain won’t need to work as hard, and you’ll be a little more socially connected. Research suggests that treating hearing loss can help minimize your danger of developing dementia when you get older. That isn’t the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.
  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are some steps you can take to protect your hearing. As an example, you could avoid noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Come see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you may have.

Other ways to lower your dementia risk

Of course, there are other things you can do to reduce your chance of cognitive decline, too. This might include:

  • Eating a healthy diet, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. Sometimes, medication can help here, some people just have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals may need medication sooner than later.
  • Getting sufficient sleep at night is crucial. Some studies have linked an increased risk of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep per night.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will increase your chance of dementia and will impact your general health (this list also includes excessive alcohol use).

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being researched by scientists. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complex. But any way you can reduce your risk is good.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help decrease your overall risk of developing dementia in the future. But it isn’t just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s now. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more confused conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And a small amount of hearing loss management, maybe in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us right away!

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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