If you begin talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will most likely put a dark cloud over the whole event.
Dementia is not a topic most individuals are intentionally seeking to talk about, mostly because it’s rather frightening. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, makes you lose touch with reality, experience memory loss, and brings about a general loss of mental function. No one wants to experience that.
So stopping or at least delaying dementia is important for many individuals. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.>
That may seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, it turns out)? Why are the risks of dementia increased with hearing loss?>
When you neglect hearing loss, what are the repercussions?
You realize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of concerns. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your television won’t fix, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite show, you’ll just turn on the captions.
Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Perhaps the signs are still easy to disregard. Cognitive decline and hearing loss are firmly linked either way. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.
- It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. Consequently, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You can draw away from friends, family, and loved ones. You won’t talk with people as often. This type of social separation is, well, bad for your brain. And naturally your social life. Further, most individuals who have this type of isolation won’t even realize that hearing loss is the cause.
- Your brain will begin to work a lot harder. Your ears will collect less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This will really tire your brain out. Your brain will then have to get additional energy from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the current theory). The idea is that after a while this contributes to dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental fatigue and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the outcome of your brain needing to work so hard.
So your hearing impairment isn’t quite as harmless as you may have thought.
One of the leading signs of dementia is hearing loss
Maybe your hearing loss is slight. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else sounds just fine. Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.
Meaning that even mild hearing loss is a pretty good 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 result in dementia. Rather, it simply means you have a greater risk of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But that might actually be good news.
Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by effectively managing your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be controlled? There are several ways:
- The affect of hearing loss can be decreased by wearing hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids prevent cognitive decline? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can boost brain function. This is why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have discussions. Research suggests that treating hearing loss can help decrease your danger of developing dementia in the future. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
- Come see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you might have.
- You can take a few steps to safeguard your hearing from further harm if you catch your hearing loss soon 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 decrease your dementia risk
Naturally, there are other things you can do to reduce your chance of cognitive decline, too. Here are some examples:
- Getting sufficient sleep at night is crucial. There are studies that link fewer than four hours of sleep each night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
- Exercise is needed for good overall health including hearing health.
- Stop smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, including your risk of developing dementia (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).
- Eating a healthy diet, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. Sometimes, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those people may need medication sooner than later.
The connection between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being studied by scientists. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complex. But the lower your risk, the better.
Being able to hear is its own advantage
So, hearing better will help reduce your overall danger of developing cognitive decline in the future. But it’s not just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent 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, maybe by using hearing aids, can be a big help.
So make sure to schedule an appointment with us today!