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

Want to suck all the fun out of your next family gathering? Start to talk about dementia.

Dementia is not a subject most individuals are intentionally looking to talk about, mainly because it’s rather frightening. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, causes you to lose touch with reality, experience memory loss, and brings about a general loss of mental function. No one wants to go through that.

So stopping or at least slowing dementia is important for many individuals. There are several clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the dangers of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What occurs when your hearing impairment goes untreated?

Perhaps you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you’re not that worried about it. You can just crank up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Perhaps the signs are still subtle. Cognitive decline and hearing loss are strongly connected either way. That could have something to do with what happens when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. You could start to keep yourself secluded from others because of this. You can withdraw from family, friends, and loved ones. You won’t talk with others as often. This sort of social separation is, well, bad for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. What’s more, many people who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they most likely won’t connect their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working harder. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t get nearly as much audio information (this is sort of obvious, yes, but stick with us). This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. Your brain will then have to get extra power from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the present theory). The thinking is that after a while this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental stress and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain needing to work so hard.

So your hearing impairment isn’t quite as harmless as you might have thought.

One of the leading signs of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you only have mild hearing impairment. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else is just fine. Well, turns out you’re still two times as likely to get dementia as somebody who does not have hearing loss.

So one of the initial indications of dementia can be even minor hearing loss.

So… How should we interpret this?

Well, it’s essential to remember that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there’s no guarantee it will result in dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have an increased risk of developing cognitive decline. But that can actually be good news.

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

  • Set up an appointment with us to diagnose your present hearing loss.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain measures you can take to safeguard your hearing. As an 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).
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help reduce the impact of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be avoided by wearing hearing aids? That’s tough to say, but hearing aids can boost brain function. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to carry on discussions. Your chance of developing dementia later in life is minimized by treating hearing loss, research suggests. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.

Other ways to reduce your dementia risk

You can reduce your risk of cognitive decline by doing some other things too, of course. This could include:

  • Getting sufficient sleep at night is essential. Some research links an increased chance of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep each night.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, including your chance of experiencing dementia (excess alcohol use can also go on this list).
  • Eating more healthy food, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. In some cases, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those people could need medication sooner rather than later.
  • Exercise is necessary for good general health and that includes hearing health.

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being studied by scientists. It’s a complicated disease with a matrix 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 general risk of dementia. You’ll be bettering your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more muffled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely visits to the grocery store.

It’s no fun losing out on life’s important moments. And a little bit of hearing loss management, perhaps 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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