Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

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

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will probably put a dark cloud above the whole event.

The topic of dementia can be very frightening and most people aren’t going to purposely talk about it. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory loss. No one wants to go through that.

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

You might be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, actually)? Why does hearing loss raise chances of dementia?

When you ignore hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

You recognize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it isn’t at the top of your list of concerns. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your television won’t solve, right? Maybe you’ll just put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

On the other hand, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still subtle. Either way, hearing loss and mental decline have a powerful correlation. That might have something to do with what happens when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. As a result, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You can withdraw from family, friends, and loved ones. You won’t talk with people as much. This sort of social isolation is, well, not good for your brain. And naturally your social life. Further, most individuals who have this sort of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will start to work much harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. Because of this, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This is unbelievably taxing. Your brain will then have to get additional power from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the current theory). The thinking is that after a while this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also result in all kinds of other symptoms, like mental stress and tiredness.

So your hearing impairment is not quite as harmless as you may have believed.

Hearing loss is one of the leading indicators of dementia

Let’s say you just have mild hearing impairment. Whispers might get lost, but you can hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, turns out you’re still two times as likely to get dementia as somebody who doesn’t have hearing loss.

So one of the preliminary signs of dementia can be even minor hearing loss.

So… How should we understand this?

We’re considering risk in this circumstance which is relevant to note. 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 a greater risk of developing cognitive decline. But there might be an upside.

Because it means that successfully dealing with your hearing loss can help you decrease your risk of dementia. So how can hearing loss be managed? There are a number of ways:

  • Come see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you might have.
  • The impact of hearing loss can be minimized by wearing hearing aids. So, can dementia be prevented by using hearing aids? That’s tough to say, but hearing aids can boost brain function. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be capable of participating in more discussions, your brain won’t need to work so hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially involved. Your risk of developing dementia in the future is reduced by treating hearing loss, research suggests. That’s not the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain measures you can take to protect your hearing. You could, for instance, use hearing protection if you work in a noisy environment and avoid noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.

Other ways to reduce your dementia risk

Of course, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of cognitive decline, too. Here are a few examples:

  • Getting enough sleep at night is essential. Some research links a higher chance of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep per night.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, including your risk of developing dementia (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).
  • Get some exercise.
  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. Sometimes, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals could need medication sooner rather than later.

Needless to say, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complex disease with an array of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, hearing better will help lower your overall danger of developing cognitive decline in the future. But it’s not only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely visits to the grocery store.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And a little bit 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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