Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Connection?

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

Want to take all the joy out of your next family get-together? Start to talk about dementia.

The subject of dementia can be really frightening and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory issues. Nobody wants to go through that.

This is why many individuals are seeking a way to prevent, or at least delay, the development of dementia. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have some fairly clear connections and correlations.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, it turns out)? Why does hearing loss raise the risk of dementia?

What takes place when your hearing impairment goes untreated?

You realize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it isn’t at the top of your list of worries. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your tv won’t solve, right? Maybe you’ll just put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

On the other hand, maybe you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still hard to detect. Cognitive decline and hearing loss are firmly connected either way. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You can draw away from friends, family, and loved ones. You won’t talk with others as often. It’s bad for your brain to isolate yourself like this. Not to mention your social life. What’s more, many individuals who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they likely won’t connect their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t get 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 will really tire your brain out. The present concept is, when this takes place, your brain draws power from your thought and memory centers. It’s believed that this could speed up the onset of dementia. Mental stress and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain needing to work so hard.

So your hearing impairment is not quite as innocuous as you might have believed.

One of the principal signs of dementia is hearing loss

Maybe your hearing loss is slight. Whispers may get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, even with that, your risk of developing dementia is doubled.

So one of the initial signs of dementia can be even mild hearing loss.

Now… What does that mean?

Well, it’s essential not to forget that we’re dealing with risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will lead to dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have an increased risk of developing cognitive decline. But that could actually be good news.

Because it means that effectively managing your hearing loss can help you reduce your risk of cognitive decline. So how can you deal with your hearing loss? Here are a few ways:

  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your hearing. You could, for instance, wear hearing protection if you work in a loud environment and avoid noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.
  • Using a hearing aid can help reduce the affect of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids stop dementia? That’s tough to say, but hearing aids can boost brain function. This is why: You’ll be capable of participating in more conversations, your brain won’t have to work as hard, and you’ll be a little more socially connected. Research indicates that managing hearing loss can help minimize your danger of developing dementia in the future. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • Make an appointment with us to diagnose your present hearing loss.

Other ways to lower your dementia risk

You can reduce your risk of dementia by doing some other things too, of course. Here are a few examples:

  • Get some exercise.
  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to lower it.
  • Make sure you get plenty of sleep each night. Some research links an increased risk of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep every night.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, including your risk of developing dementia (this list also includes excessive alcohol use).

Of course, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. There are so many causes that make this disease so complex. But any way you can reduce your risk is good.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of dementia. But it isn’t only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely trips to the grocery store.

It’s no fun losing out on life’s important moments. And taking steps to deal with your hearing loss, maybe by using hearing aids, can be a big help.

So call us today for an appointment.

References

https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2021/hearing-loss-and-the-dementia-connection

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.