Texas Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, LLP - Bedford, Grapevine, Southlake, and Flower Mound, TX

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

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will probably put a dark cloud over the whole event.

The subject of dementia can be really frightening and most people aren’t going to purposely talk about it. A degenerative cognitive disease in which you slowly (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory issues. No one wants to experience that.

So preventing or at least slowing dementia is important for many people. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and neglected hearing loss.

You might be surprised by that. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the dangers of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What happens when your hearing loss goes untreated?

Maybe you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you’re not that concerned about it. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your tv won’t fix, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just turn on the captions.

But then again, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Perhaps the signs are still hard to detect. Cognitive decline and hearing loss are firmly connected either way. That might have something to do with what occurs when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You can withdraw from friends, family, and loved ones. You’ll talk to others less. This type of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. Not to mention your social life. What’s more, many people who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they probably won’t connect their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will begin to work a lot harder. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stick with us). As a result, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. The present theory is, when this occurs, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. The idea is that after a while this contributes to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also result in all kinds of other symptoms, like mental fatigue and tiredness.

So your hearing impairment isn’t quite as harmless as you might have suspected.

Hearing loss is one of the leading signs of dementia

Let’s say you have only slight hearing impairment. Whispers might get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, even with that, your chance of getting dementia is doubled.

So one of the preliminary indications of dementia can be even minor hearing loss.

So… How should we interpret this?

We’re considering risk in this situation which is important to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. Instead, it simply means you have a higher chance of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But that can actually be good news.

Your risk of dementia is reduced by effectively dealing with your hearing loss. So how can you deal with your hearing loss? There are numerous ways:

  • You can take a few measures to protect your hearing from further damage if you catch your hearing loss early enough. You could, for instance, wear hearing protection if you work in a loud environment and steer clear of noisy events like concerts or sporting events.
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help minimize the impact of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be avoided by wearing hearing aids? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be enhanced by using hearing aids. This is why: You’ll be able to participate in more conversations, your brain won’t have to work so hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially connected. Research indicates that managing 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.
  • Schedule an appointment with us to diagnose your present hearing loss.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other methods

You can reduce your risk of cognitive decline by doing some other things too, of course. Here are some examples:

  • Exercise is needed for good overall health and that includes hearing health.
  • Eating a healthy diet, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to use medication to bring it down.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep every night. Some research links an increased risk of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep each night.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will raise your chance of dementia and will impact your general health (excessive alcohol drinking is also on this list).

The connection 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 the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, hearing better will help decrease your general risk of developing cognitive decline down the line. You’ll be improving your life now, not only in the future. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

It’s no fun losing out on life’s important moments. 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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References

https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2021/hearing-loss-and-the-dementia-connection

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.