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

If you start talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will most likely put a dark cloud over the whole event.

Dementia is not a topic most people are actively looking to discuss, mainly because it’s pretty frightening. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, makes you lose a grip on reality, experience loss of memory, and causes an over-all loss of mental faculties. Nobody wants to experience that.

So stopping or at least delaying dementia is important for many people. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have several fairly clear connections and correlations.

You might be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (a lot, it turns out)? Why are the risks of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What takes place when your hearing impairment is neglected?

You realize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of worries. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your tv won’t fix, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just turn on the captions.

But then again, perhaps you haven’t noticed your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still subtle. In either case, hearing loss and mental decline have a powerful correlation. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You can draw away from family, friends, and loved ones. You speak to others less. This sort of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Additionally, many people who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they likely won’t attribute their isolation to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. Your ears will get less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This will really tire your brain out. Your brain will then have to get additional energy from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the current theory). The thinking is that over time this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also cause all kinds of other symptoms, like mental stress and exhaustion.

You may have suspected that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it actually is.

One of the major signs of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you just have mild hearing loss. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else is just fine. Well, even with that, your risk of developing dementia is doubled.

Which means that even mild hearing loss is a pretty strong initial indication of a risk of dementia.

So… How should we interpret this?

Well, it’s important not to forget that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of cognitive decline or even an early symptom of 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.

Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by successfully dealing with your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be controlled? There are numerous ways:

  • You can take a few steps to safeguard your hearing from further damage if you catch your hearing loss early enough. As an example, you could avoid noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re near anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Come see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you may have.
  • The impact of hearing loss can be reduced by wearing hearing aids. So, can dementia be avoided by using hearing aids? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be improved by using hearing aids. This is the reason 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. Your risk of developing dementia in the future is minimized by treating hearing loss, research suggests. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other strategies

You can decrease your risk of cognitive decline by doing some other things as well, of course. Here are a few examples:

  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. Sometimes, medication can help here, some people just have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals may need medication sooner rather than later.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep every night. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep every night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will increase your risk of cognitive decline as well as impacting your general health (excessive alcohol use is also on this list).

Needless to say, scientists are still researching the link 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.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of dementia. You’ll be bettering your life now, not only in the future. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely trips to the grocery store.

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

So call us today for an appointment.

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