Louisville Family Audiology - Louisville, KY

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 probably put a dark cloud above the entire event.

Dementia is not a subject most individuals are actively seeking to talk about, mostly because it’s pretty scary. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, causes you to lose a grip on reality, experience loss of memory, and causes an over-all loss of mental function. It isn’t something anyone looks forward to.

This is why many individuals are looking for a way to prevent, or at least delay, the development of dementia. There are several clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and neglected hearing loss.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the risks of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

What happens when your hearing impairment goes untreated?

Maybe you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you’re not too concerned about it. You can simply turn up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite show, you’ll just turn on the captions.

On the other hand, maybe you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still hard to detect. Either way, hearing loss and mental decline have a solid correlation. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. You could begin to keep yourself isolated from others because of this. You may become removed from loved ones and friends. You speak to others less. It’s not good for your brain to separate yourself like this. Not to mention your social life. What’s more, many individuals who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they probably won’t connect their isolation to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. As a result, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This is incredibly taxing. Your brain will then have to get extra power from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the current concept). The thinking is that over time this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental stress and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the result of your brain needing to work so hard.

You might have thought that your hearing loss was more harmless than it actually is.

One of the principal signs 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, even with that, your risk of developing dementia is doubled.

Which means that even minor hearing loss is a fairly good initial indication of a risk of dementia.

So… How should we understand this?

Well, it’s important to remember that we’re dealing with risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will lead to dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a higher chance of developing cognitive decline. But that could actually be good news.

Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by effectively dealing with your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be addressed? There are a number of ways:

  • Wearing a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be prevented by wearing hearing aids? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be improved by wearing hearing aids. This is the reason why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t need to work so hard to have conversations. Research suggests that treating hearing loss can help reduce your danger of developing dementia when you get older. That isn’t the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.
  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your hearing. You could, for instance, use hearing protection if you work in a noisy environment and steer clear of noisy events like concerts or sporting events.
  • Come in and see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you may have.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other strategies

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

  • Eating a healthy diet, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to lower it.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will raise your risk of cognitive decline and will impact your overall health (excess alcohol drinking can also go on this list).
  • Exercise is needed for good overall health and that includes hearing health.
  • Getting adequate sleep at night is imperative. Some studies have linked a higher risk of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep each night.

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being examined by scientists. It’s a complicated disease with an array of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your overall risk of cognitive decline. But it isn’t just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more muffled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely trips to the grocery store.

Losing out on the important things in life is no fun. And a small amount of hearing loss management, possibly in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

So call us today for an appointment.

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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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