If you begin talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will probably put a dark cloud over the entire event.
Dementia isn’t a subject most individuals are actively seeking to discuss, mainly because it’s pretty scary. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, makes you lose a grip on reality, experience loss of memory, and brings about a general loss of mental faculties. No one wants to experience that.
So preventing or at least delaying dementia is a priority for many people. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have some pretty 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, it turns out)? Why does hearing loss increase the risk of dementia?>
What happens when your hearing loss goes untreated?
You recognize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of concerns. You can simply turn up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite show, you’ll just turn on the captions.
But then again, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Perhaps the signs are still easy to ignore. Mental decline and hearing loss are clearly linked either way. That might have something to do with what happens when you have neglected hearing loss.
- It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. As a result, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You can withdraw from friends, family, and loved ones. You’ll talk to others less. This kind of social isolation is, well, not good for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most people who have this kind of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
- Your brain will be working harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This will really exhaust your brain. The current theory is, when this takes place, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. It’s believed that this may hasten the onset of dementia. Mental stress and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the result of your brain having to work so hard.
You might have suspected that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.
Hearing loss is one of the major signs of dementia
Let’s say you only have mild hearing loss. Whispers may get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, turns out you’re still two times as likely to get dementia as someone who doesn’t have hearing loss.
Which means that even mild hearing loss is a pretty strong initial indication of a dementia risk.
Now… What does that suggest?
Well, it’s important 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. It does mean that later in life you will have a greater risk of developing cognitive decline. But there might be an upside.
Your risk of dementia is decreased by effectively managing your hearing loss. So how do you deal with your hearing loss? Here are a few ways:
- You can take a few measures to safeguard your hearing from further damage if you detect your hearing loss early enough. For example, you could avoid 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).
- Come in and see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you might have.
- Using a hearing aid can help minimize the impact of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be prevented by wearing hearing aids? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be improved by wearing hearing aids. This is why: You’ll be able to participate in more discussions, your brain won’t have to work as hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially connected. Your chance of developing dementia in the future is minimized by managing hearing loss, research suggests. That’s not the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.
Other ways to reduce your dementia risk
You can minimize your chance of dementia by doing some other things too, of course. Here are a few examples:
- Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will raise your chance of dementia as well as impacting your overall health (excessive alcohol use can also go on this list).
- Exercise is necessary for good general health including hearing health.
- A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is generally healthy can go a long way. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to use medication to lower it.
- Be sure you get plenty of sleep each night. There are studies that link less than four hours of sleep per night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
Needless to say, scientists are still researching the connection between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complicated disease with a matrix of causes. But any way you can lower your risk is good.
Hearing is its own benefit
So, hearing better will help reduce your overall risk of developing dementia in the future. But it’s not only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s now. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely trips to the grocery store.
It’s no fun losing out on life’s important moments. And taking steps to deal with your hearing loss, possibly by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.
So call us today for an appointment.