If you start talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will most likely put a dark cloud above the whole event.
Dementia isn’t a subject most individuals are actively seeking to discuss, mostly because it’s rather scary. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory issues. No one wants to experience that.
So preventing or at least delaying dementia is important for many people. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have some fairly clear connections and correlations.>
You may be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (a lot, actually)? Why are the dangers of dementia increased with hearing loss?>
What happens when your hearing loss is neglected?
You realize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of worries. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your television won’t solve, right? Maybe you’ll simply turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.
Or maybe your hearing loss has gone unobserved so far. Maybe the signs are still subtle. In either case, hearing loss and mental decline have a solid connection. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.
- Conversation becomes harder to understand. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You may become removed from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with others as often. This type of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Additionally, many people who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they most likely won’t attribute their solitude to their hearing.
- Your brain will start to work a lot harder. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stay with us). As a result, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This is incredibly taxing. The current concept is, when this occurs, your brain draws power from your thought and memory centers. The idea is that over time this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also result in all manner of other symptoms, like mental fatigue and tiredness.
You might have thought that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.
One of the leading signs of dementia is hearing loss
Let’s say you have only slight hearing loss. Whispers might get lost, but you can hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.
Meaning that even minor hearing loss is a fairly strong preliminary indication of a dementia risk.
So… How should we interpret this?
We’re considering risk in this circumstance which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a greater chance of developing cognitive decline. But there may be an upside.
Because it means that successfully managing your hearing loss can help you reduce your chance of cognitive decline. So how can hearing loss be managed? Here are a few ways:
- Wearing a hearing aid can help minimize the impact of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids prevent cognitive decline? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be improved by wearing hearing aids. Here’s why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t have to work so hard to carry on discussions. Research indicates that managing hearing loss can help reduce your risk of developing dementia in the future. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.
- Come in and see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you might have.
- You can take a few measures to protect your hearing from further harm if you catch your hearing loss early enough. As an example, you could avoid noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re around anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
Lowering your risk of dementia – other methods
Of course, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of cognitive decline, too. This might include:
- Getting sufficient sleep at night is crucial. Some research links a higher chance of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep each night.
- Quit smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, including your chance of developing dementia (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).
- Exercise is necessary for good overall health and that includes hearing health.
- A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. In some cases, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those people may need medication sooner than later.
Needless to say, scientists are still studying the link between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. 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, hearing better will help lower your overall danger of developing cognitive decline down the line. You’ll be improving your life now, not only in the future. 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 taking steps to control your hearing loss, perhaps by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.
So call us today for an appointment.