Audiology Associates of North Florida - Tallahassee, FL

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

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

The topic of dementia can be really scary and most people aren’t going to go out of their way to discuss it. A degenerative cognitive disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory issues. Nobody wants to experience that.

For this reason, many people are looking for a way to prevent, or at least slow, the advancement of dementia. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated 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 dangers of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

You realize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it isn’t at the top of your list of worries. You can simply turn up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

But then again, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still subtle. In either case, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a solid correlation. That may have something to do with what occurs when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. As a result, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You may become removed from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with people as often. This kind of social isolation is, well, not good for your brain. And naturally your social life. What’s more, many individuals who cope with 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 start to work much harder. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is sort of obvious, yes, but stick with us). As a result, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. Your brain will then need to get additional power from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the current theory). It’s thought that this may quicken the development of cognitive decline. Mental stress and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain needing to work so hard.

You may have thought that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.

One of the principal indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you have only mild hearing impairment. 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 somebody who does not have hearing loss.

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

So… How should we understand this?

Well, it’s essential to remember that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of cognitive decline or even an early symptom of dementia. Rather, it just means you have a higher chance of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But there may be an upside.

Because it means that successfully dealing with your hearing loss can help you lower your risk of dementia. So how do you manage your hearing loss? There are numerous ways:

  • You can take a few steps to safeguard your hearing from further damage if you detect your hearing loss soon enough. You could, for instance, wear hearing protection if you work in a noisy setting and steer clear of noisy events like concerts or sporting events.
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be prevented by wearing hearing aids? That’s hard to say, but hearing aids can improve brain function. This is the reason why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have conversations. Research suggests that managing hearing loss can help reduce your risk of developing dementia when you get older. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • Schedule an appointment with us to diagnose your current hearing loss.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other strategies

You can decrease your chance of cognitive decline by doing some other things as well, of course. This might include:

  • Stop smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, including your chance of developing cognitive decline (this list also includes excessive alcohol use).
  • Get some exercise.
  • Eating more healthy food, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to take medication to lower it.
  • Getting sufficient sleep at night is crucial. Some research links a higher risk of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep each night.

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 decrease your risk is good.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, hearing better will help decrease your general danger of developing dementia in the future. But it isn’t only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more muffled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely trips to the grocery store.

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