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

Want to take all the fun out of your next family get-together? Start talking about dementia.

Dementia is not a topic most people are actively looking to talk about, mainly because it’s rather frightening. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory problems. It’s not something anyone looks forward to.

This is why many people are looking for a way to counter, or at least slow, the development of dementia. There are several clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and neglected hearing loss.

You may be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, it turns out)? Why are the dangers of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What occurs when your hearing impairment goes untreated?

You recognize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it isn’t at the top of your list of worries. You can just turn up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just put on the captions.

On the other hand, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still easy to disregard. In either case, hearing loss and mental decline have a strong connection. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You might become removed from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with others as much. It’s bad for your brain to isolate yourself this way. And naturally your social life. Further, most people who have this sort of isolation won’t even realize that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will begin to work much harder. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t get nearly as much audio information (this is sort of obvious, yes, but stay with us). This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This is unbelievably taxing. Your brain will then have to get additional power from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the present concept). The thinking is that over time this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Mental fatigue and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the result of your brain having to work so hard.

So your hearing loss is not quite as harmless as you might have believed.

Hearing loss is one of the leading indicators of dementia

Maybe your hearing loss is slight. Whispers may get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, turns out you’re still two times as likely to get dementia as someone who does not have hearing loss.

Which means that even mild hearing loss is a fairly strong preliminary sign of a dementia risk.

Now… What does that mean?

Well, it’s essential not to forget that we’re dealing with risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will lead to dementia. Rather, it just means you have a greater risk of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But that can actually be good news.

Because it means that effectively dealing with your hearing loss can help you decrease your chance of cognitive decline. So how can hearing loss be controlled? There are several ways:

  • Schedule an appointment with us to identify your current hearing loss.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are some steps you can take to protect your hearing. For example, you could avoid noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re around anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help minimize the impact of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids prevent dementia? That’s hard to say, but hearing aids can enhance brain function. This is the reason why: You’ll be able to participate in more conversations, your brain won’t need to work as hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially connected. Research suggests that managing hearing loss can help reduce your risk of developing dementia when you get older. That isn’t the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other methods

Of course, there are other things you can do to lower your risk of cognitive decline, too. This could include:

  • Quit smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, including your risk of experiencing cognitive decline (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).
  • Eating a healthy diet, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. In some cases, medication can help here, some people simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals may need medication sooner than later.
  • Exercise is necessary for good overall health including hearing health.
  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep each night. Some research links an increased chance of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep every night.

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 complicated. But any way you can reduce your risk is good.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your overall risk of dementia. But it’s not only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And taking steps to control your hearing loss, perhaps by using hearing aids, can be a big help.

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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