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 topic most individuals are intentionally seeking to discuss, mostly because it’s rather scary. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory problems. Nobody wants to go through that.
So preventing or at least slowing dementia is important for many individuals. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.>
You might be surprised by that. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why does hearing loss increase chances of dementia?>
What takes place when your hearing loss is neglected?
You recognize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of worries. You can just crank up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite show, you’ll just put on the captions.
Or maybe your hearing loss has gone unobserved so far. Maybe the signs are still subtle. In either case, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a strong connection. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.
- Conversation becomes harder to understand. You could start to keep yourself secluded from others because of this. You may become removed from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with people as much. This sort of social separation is, well, not good for your brain. And naturally your social life. Further, most people who have this sort of isolation won’t even recognize that hearing loss is the cause.
- Your brain will begin to work much harder. Your ears will collect less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. Because of this, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This will really tire your brain out. The current theory is, when this occurs, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. It’s believed that this might quicken the development of cognitive decline. Your brain working so hard can also result in all kinds of other symptoms, like mental stress and exhaustion.
You may have suspected that your hearing loss was more harmless than it actually is.
Hearing loss is one of the major signs of dementia
Let’s say you have only slight hearing loss. Whispers might get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to develop dementia as someone who does not have hearing loss.
Meaning that even minor hearing loss is a fairly good initial indication of a dementia risk.
So… How should we understand this?
We’re looking at risk in this situation which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t a guarantee of dementia or even an early symptom of dementia. Instead, it simply means you have a higher chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But that can actually be good news.
Because it means that effectively managing your hearing loss can help you decrease your chance of cognitive decline. So how do you deal with your hearing loss? There are a number of ways:
- If your hearing loss is detected early, there are some measures you can take to safeguard your hearing. As an example, you could avoid noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
- The affect of hearing loss can be decreased by wearing hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids prevent cognitive decline? That’s tough to say, but hearing aids can enhance brain function. This is the reason why: You’ll be able to participate in more discussions, your brain won’t need to work so hard, and you’ll be a little more socially involved. Your chance of developing dementia later in life is reduced by treating hearing loss, research implies. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
- Come in and see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you might have.
Lowering your chance of dementia – other strategies
Of course, there are other things you can do to lower your chance of dementia, too. This could include:
- Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will increase your risk of dementia as well as impacting your overall health (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).
- A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is generally healthy can go a long way. Sometimes, medication can help here, some individuals just have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals could need medication sooner than later.
- Get some exercise.
- Getting enough sleep at night is essential. Some studies have linked an increased chance of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep every night.
Of course, scientists are still studying the link between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. There are so many causes that make this disease so complicated. But any way you can reduce your risk is good.
Hearing is its own benefit
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 now. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.
It’s no fun missing out on life’s important moments. And taking steps to deal with your hearing loss, maybe by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.
So call us today for an appointment.