How Hearing Loss Might Be Linked to Dementia

Loss of hearing in older adults can lead to several problems.

Risk of falls and general diminished health are typical with aging.  But studies now show that substantial untreated hearing loss is correlated with the instance of dementia, as well.

By the age of 70, 2 out of every 3 senior citizens is suffering from some percentage of hearing loss. This hearing loss, especially if it’s left untreated, can cause diminished cognitive ability. Presence of hearing loss has been shown to increase one’s cognitive load, risk of social isolation, depression, and accelerated brain atrophy- each of which could contribute to such problems.

In a 2011 study focusing on dementia, Lin and his colleagues monitored the cognitive health of 639 people who were mentally sharp when the study began. The researchers tested the volunteers' mental abilities regularly, following most for about 12 years, and some for as long as 18 years. The results were striking: The worse the initial hearing loss was, the more likely the person was to develop dementia. Compared with people of normal hearing, those with moderate hearing loss had triple the risk.

- (Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore) -

It is suspected that the constant strain of listening causes the brain to allocate cognitive power from other areas, including memory.  The possibility also exists that isolating oneself from social interactions because of poor hearing can result in a lowering of cognitive function.

So, will treating my hearing loss stave off dementia?

There is yet to be a study that definitively concludes that hearing aid use can prevent dementia.  However, several reports have indicated that consistent use of hearing aids counteracts the increased rate of cognitive decline that would otherwise be caused by the presence of hearing loss.

Recent studies show that those with untreated hearing loss lose brain function more quickly. Thus, it is believed that if you treat hearing loss early, you have a greater chance of not overloading your brain, thus maintaining more energy for memory and cognitive abilities. Hearing aid use leads to increased activity, socialization, and communication- all of which can also be related to cognition- and possibly dementia. It only makes sense that giving your brain better information will allow it to work better for you.

So what do I need to do?

See an audiologist. The best thing you can do for your hearing health is to get a professional assessment. Based on that assessment, follow the audiologist's recommendations. If your hearing care provider recommends hearing aids, give them a try.

Actually use the devices recommended by the audiologist. Many of the positive effects of hearing aid use are related to a consistent wear schedule. If you don’t use them, they can’t help you.

Don’t isolate yourself from others. Once you are hearing well again, engaging in social interactions and communication can be quite important.  Developing the skills and abilities for your brain to make sense of sounds and speech come with regular stimulation and practice.

Not hearing as well as you used to?

Stop in and have a chat with us. The hearing loss you are experiencing just might be treatable, but you can’t know until you determine the underlying causes of diminished hearing.

We can’t wait to help you gain a better hearing lifestyle.  Here at Family Audiology we are committed to better hearing and committed to you! Contact us today and schedule an appointment.

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