If you begin talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will most likely put a dark cloud over the whole event.
The subject of dementia can be really frightening and most people aren’t going to go out of their way to discuss it. A degenerative mental disease in which you slowly (or, more terrifyingly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory problems. It isn’t something anybody looks forward to.
So preventing or at least slowing dementia is important for many people. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have some 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 (a lot, actually)? Why does hearing loss increase the risk of dementia?>
When you disregard hearing loss, what are the consequences?
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 tv won’t fix, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite show, you’ll just turn on the captions.
Or maybe your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Perhaps the signs are still subtle. Mental decline and hearing impairment are strongly linked either way. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.
- It becomes harder to understand conversations. As a result, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You can draw away from friends, family, and loved ones. You’ll talk to others less. It’s bad for your brain to isolate yourself this way. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most individuals who have this sort of isolation won’t even recognize that hearing loss is the cause.
- Your brain will be working harder. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is sort of obvious, yes, but stay with us). Because of this, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This will really tire your brain out. The present concept is, when this happens, your brain draws power from your thinking and memory centers. The idea is that after a while this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental stress and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain having to work so hard.
You might have thought that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.
Hearing loss is one of the primary signs of dementia
Let’s say you have only slight hearing impairment. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else is just fine. Well, even with that, your risk of getting dementia is doubled.
So one of the initial indications of dementia can be even mild hearing loss.
So… How should we interpret this?
Well, it’s essential not to forget that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there’s no guarantee it will result in dementia. Rather, it just means you have a higher chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But there may be an upside.
Because it means that effectively dealing with your hearing loss can help you reduce your chance of dementia. So how can you manage your hearing loss? Here are a few ways:
- Using a hearing aid can help decrease the affect 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 enhanced by wearing hearing aids. This is why: You’ll be able to participate in more discussions, your brain won’t need to work as hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially involved. Your chance of developing dementia in the future is minimized by treating hearing loss, research implies. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
- Set up an appointment with us to identify your existing hearing loss.
- If your hearing loss is caught early, there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your hearing. As an example, you could steer clear of noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re around anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
Other ways to reduce your dementia risk
You can decrease your chance of cognitive decline by doing some other things as well, of course. This could include:
- Be sure you get enough sleep every night. Some research links a higher risk of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep every night.
- Eating a healthy diet, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to use medication to bring it down.
- Exercise is needed for good general health and that includes hearing health.
- Quit smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, including your chance of developing dementia (excess alcohol use can also go on this list).
The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being researched by scientists. There are a multitude of 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, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of cognitive decline. But it isn’t only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s now. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more muffled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely trips to the grocery store.
Losing out on the important things in life is no fun. 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.