If you begin talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will most likely put a dark cloud above the whole event.
Dementia is not a subject most people are intentionally looking to talk about, mainly because it’s pretty frightening. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, causes you to lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory, and causes an over-all loss of mental function. No one wants to go through that.
So stopping or at least delaying dementia is important for many individuals. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have several fairly clear connections and correlations.>
That might seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, it turns out)? Why does hearing loss increase chances of dementia?>
What happens when your hearing loss is neglected?
Perhaps you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you aren’t too worried about it. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your television won’t fix, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just turn on the captions.
But then again, maybe you haven’t noticed your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still hard to detect. Either way, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a solid correlation. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.
- Conversation becomes more difficult to understand. You could start to keep yourself secluded from others because of this. You can withdraw from family, friends, and loved ones. You’ll talk to others less. It’s bad for your brain to isolate yourself this way. Not to mention your social life. Further, most people who have this type of isolation won’t even recognize that hearing loss is the cause.
- Your brain will start to work a lot harder. Your ears will collect less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. As a result, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This is unbelievably taxing. The current theory is, when this happens, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. The thinking is that after a while 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 having to work so hard.
You might have thought that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it really is.
One of the principal signs of dementia is hearing loss
Maybe your hearing loss is mild. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else is just fine. Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to get dementia as somebody who doesn’t have hearing loss.
Meaning that even minor hearing loss is a pretty good initial indication of a dementia risk.
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’s no guarantee it will lead to dementia. Rather, it just means you have a higher risk of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But that can actually be good news.
Because it means that successfully managing your hearing loss can help you reduce your risk of dementia. So how can hearing loss be managed? Here are a few ways:
- Come in and see us so we can help you diagnose any hearing loss you may have.
- Wearing a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be stopped by wearing hearing aids? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be improved by using hearing aids. Here’s why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have discussions. Research indicates that managing hearing loss can help decrease your risk of developing dementia in the future. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
- You can take some measures to safeguard your hearing from further harm if you catch your hearing loss early enough. As an example, you could steer clear of noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
Other ways to reduce your dementia risk
Naturally, there are other things you can do to lower your chance of dementia, too. Here are some examples:
- Eating a healthy diet, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to take medication to bring it down.
- Exercise is necessary for good general health including hearing health.
- Getting adequate sleep at night is crucial. Some studies have linked a higher chance of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep each night.
- Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will increase your chance of cognitive decline and will impact your general health (excess alcohol use is also on this list).
Needless to say, scientists are still researching the connection between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. There are so many causes that make this disease so complicated. But the lower your risk, the better.
Hearing is its own benefit
So, hearing better will help reduce your overall risk of developing dementia in the future. You’ll be improving your life now, not just in the future. 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 is no fun. And taking steps to manage your hearing loss, possibly by using hearing aids, can be a big help.
So call us today for an appointment.