Hearing loss is a natural part of aging for many, but navigating the connection between this and an increased risk of dementia can be difficult.
conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2,400 adults over the age of 65 were evaluated in order to determine the level of correlation between hearing loss and dementia. The conclusion of this study revealed that the development of dementia was 61% higher in those with moderate to severe hearing loss than those with good hearing.
At , our audiologists and hearing aid specialists have studied the connection between hearing loss and the brain for decades. That's why, in this article, we'll be going over what you need to know regarding this important subject.
The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline
There is no one solid answer explaining why it is that there is such a substantial connection between dementia risk and hearing loss. In actuality, there are many reasons that likely all play a role. Some of the most common factors that have been identified include:
- Cognitive Overload: Those with untreated hearing loss often experience cognitive overload, where they are constantly struggling to make sense of sounds and conversations. This constant state of mental exertion can lead to mental fatigue and reduced brain function over time.
- Social Isolation: Hearing loss can also lead to social isolation, as those with untreated hearing loss often have difficulty communicating and may withdraw from social situations. Social isolation has been linked to an increased risk for dementia.
- Brain Structure: Another theory is that the changes in brain structure that occur due to aging and hearing loss could also impact cognitive function. The areas of the brain responsible for processing sound may become less active, which can have a cascading effect on other cognitive functions.
- Shared Risk Factors: Additionally, there are several risk factors for both hearing loss and dementia, such as smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It is possible that these shared risk factors may contribute to the connection between the two conditions.
Early Symptoms and Signs of Hearing Loss
It's important to recognize the signs of hearing loss in order to address it early on and potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Some common symptoms and signs of hearing loss include:
- Difficulty understanding speech, especially in crowded or noisy environments
- Constantly needing to turn up the volume on electronic devices or television
- Struggling to hear high-pitched sounds or female voices
- Feeling like others are mumbling or speaking unclearly
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
If you notice that these symptoms seem applicable to you or a loved one, don't panic. Early intervention is key to mitigating long-term damage, but there are a variety of treatment options available to help manage these issues. The first action to take, though, is to evaluation as soon as possible.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
In a clinical trial backed by the National Institute of Health, it was found that the implementation of hearing aids reduced cognitive decline in at-risk adults by nearly 50% over a three-year period.
Not only can hearing aids improve one's ability to hear, but they also help individuals stay connected with their surroundings and engage in conversations. By improving communication and social interaction, hearing aids can have a positive impact on overall mental health and well-being.
Reducing the strain on one's cognitive abilities caused by untreated hearing loss may prevent or delay the onset of dementia. This is because the brain is able to allocate its resources towards other tasks instead of compensating for hearing difficulties.
Overcoming Your Hearing Aid Hesitations
It is understandable to be hesitant toward hearing aids. Unfortunately, even as technology advances at its ever-rapid rate, there is no aid that can fully replace your lost hearing. But, what it can do is act as a preventative measure to ensure your cognitive processes are the healthiest they can be for as long as possible. Listed below are some answers to some common hearing aid concerns.
Concern About Stigma or Vanity
It's natural to worry about how a hearing aid will look or what others will think. However, modern hearing aids are incredibly discreet and can often be completely hidden from view. Additionally, there's a growing acceptance and understanding of hearing aids as tools for a better life, much like eyeglasses for vision correction.
Worry About Comfort and Ease of Use
New users might be concerned about the comfort and complexity of hearing aids. The latest designs are made for ease of use and comfort, with many being customizable to fit your ear shape. Audiologists can work with you to ensure a proper fit and to guide you through the operation of the device.
Fear of Not Hearing Naturally
While it's true that hearing aids don't restore natural hearing, they can significantly improve your ability to understand speech and engage in conversations. With time, many users adapt and find that the amplified sounds become part of their everyday experience.
Anxiety Over Cost
The cost of hearing aids can be a concern, and trust us when we say that this is perfectly understandable. However, there is a massive selection of models and price points available. Some insurance plans offer coverage, and there may be some programs to assist with the purchase. Not to mention, here at Francis Audiology, we are always more than happy to discuss !
Get A Diagnostic Evaluation Today
Sometimes, the best care for hearing loss is preventative. Once you have a fuller understanding of your hearing loss risk factors, and where your hearing stands today, a more comprehensive plan for treatment can be initiated.