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

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

The subject of dementia can be really frightening and most people aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, makes you lose touch with reality, experience memory loss, and brings about a general loss of mental function. It isn’t something anyone looks forward to.

For this reason, many people are looking for a way to counter, or at least slow, the advancement 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, actually)? Why does hearing loss increase chances of dementia?

What occurs 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 concerns. You can simply turn up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just put on the captions.

Or maybe your hearing loss has gone unnoticed so far. Maybe the signs are still subtle. Either way, hearing loss and mental decline have a strong connection. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You might become removed from loved ones and friends. You’ll talk to others less. It’s not good for your brain to separate yourself this way. It’s not good for your social life either. What’s more, 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 info. This will really tire your brain out. The current concept is, when this happens, your brain pulls power from your thinking and memory centers. It’s thought that this might speed up the onset of cognitive decline. Your brain working so hard can also result in all manner of other symptoms, like mental fatigue and tiredness.

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

One of the leading indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Perhaps your hearing loss is mild. Whispers may get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to develop dementia as someone who does not have hearing loss.

Which means that even minor hearing loss is a pretty good preliminary sign of a risk of dementia.

So… How should we interpret this?

Well, it’s essential not to forget that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there’s no guarantee it will lead to dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have an increased risk of developing cognitive decline. But there may be an upside.

Your risk of cognitive decline is reduced by successfully managing your hearing loss. So how do you manage your hearing loss? Here are a few ways:

  • You can take some measures to safeguard your hearing from further damage if you detect your hearing loss soon enough. For example, you could avoid noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Come see us so we can help you diagnose any hearing loss you may have.
  • The affect of hearing loss can be minimized by using hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids stop cognitive decline? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be enhanced by wearing hearing aids. This is why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to carry on conversations. Your chance of developing dementia in the future is decreased by managing hearing loss, research indicates. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other strategies

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

  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, and that includes your chance of experiencing dementia (excess alcohol use can also go on this list).
  • Make sure you get enough sleep every night. Some studies have linked a higher risk of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep per night.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Eating more healthy food, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to bring it down.

The connection between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being examined by scientists. There are so many causes that make this disease so complex. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help reduce your overall risk of developing cognitive decline in the future. You’ll be improving your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

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

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

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