Stephenville, TX

Abilene, Stephenville and Brownwood, TX

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 fun out of your next family get-together? Start to talk about dementia.

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

For this reason, many people are looking for a way to counter, or at least slow, the development of dementia. There are several clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

That may 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 chances of dementia?

When you disregard hearing loss, what are the consequences?

Maybe you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you aren’t that worried about it. You can simply turn up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll simply put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

On the other hand, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still hard to detect. Mental decline and hearing loss are strongly connected either way. That could have something to do with what occurs when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. You could start to keep yourself isolated from others because of this. You can withdraw from friends, family, and loved ones. You’ll talk to others less. This kind of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most individuals who have this kind of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working harder. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stay with us). Because of this, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This is unbelievably taxing. The current theory is, when this happens, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. The idea is that over time this contributes to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Mental stress and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the result of your brain having to work so hard.

So your hearing impairment isn’t quite as harmless as you may have believed.

Hearing loss is one of the major indicators of dementia

Let’s say you have only mild hearing impairment. Whispers may get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, even with that, your chance of getting dementia is doubled.

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

So… How should we understand this?

We’re considering risk in this situation which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. Rather, it just means you have a greater risk of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But that can actually be good news.

Because it means that effectively managing your hearing loss can help you decrease your chance of dementia. So how can you deal with your hearing loss? There are a number of ways:

  • Set up an appointment with us to identify your current hearing loss.
  • Using a hearing aid can help minimize the affect of hearing loss. So, can dementia be prevented by wearing hearing aids? That’s hard to say, but hearing aids can boost brain function. This is the reason why: You’ll be able to participate in more discussions, your brain won’t need to work as hard, and you’ll be a little more socially connected. Your chance of developing dementia later in life is minimized by treating hearing loss, research indicates. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • You can take a few steps to safeguard your hearing from further harm if you detect your hearing loss early enough. For example, you could stay away from noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re around anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).

Lowering your chance of dementia – other methods

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

  • Exercise is necessary for good overall health including hearing health.
  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall can go a long way. Sometimes, medication can help here, some people simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those people could need medication sooner than later.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, including your risk of developing cognitive decline (excessive alcohol drinking is also on this list).
  • Getting enough sleep at night is crucial. Some studies link fewer than four hours of sleep every night to an increase in the risk of dementia.

The connection between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being researched by scientists. It’s a complicated disease with an array of causes. But any way you can lower your risk is good.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of cognitive decline. But it’s not only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And a little bit of hearing loss management, perhaps in the form of a hearing aid, can help considerably.

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

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.

Questions? Talk To Us.