If you start talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will probably put a dark cloud above the whole event.
The subject of dementia can be really frightening and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to discuss it. 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 loss. Nobody wants to go through that.
For this reason, many individuals are looking for a way to counter, or at least slow, the development of dementia. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have several pretty clear connections and correlations.>
You may be surprised by that. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why does hearing loss raise the risk of dementia?>
What happens when your hearing impairment is neglected?
Maybe you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you aren’t that worried about it. You can simply crank up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite show, you’ll just turn on the captions.
On the other hand, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still easy to dismiss. Mental decline and hearing loss are firmly linked either way. That may have something to do with what happens when you have untreated hearing loss.
- Conversation becomes more difficult to understand. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You may become distant from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with others as often. This type of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. Not to mention your social life. What’s more, many individuals who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they probably won’t connect their solitude to their hearing.
- Your brain will begin to work a lot 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. Your brain will then have to get extra energy from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the current concept). The thinking is that over time this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Your brain working so hard can also result in all manner of other symptoms, like mental fatigue and tiredness.
So your hearing impairment isn’t quite as innocuous as you might have thought.
Hearing loss is one of the major indicators of dementia
Maybe your hearing loss is slight. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else sounds normal. Well, even with that, your risk of getting dementia is doubled.
So one of the initial signs of dementia can be even mild hearing loss.
Now… What does that suggest?
We’re considering risk in this circumstance which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there’s no guarantee it will lead to dementia. Instead, it just means you have a greater chance of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But that might actually be good news.
Your risk of dementia is reduced by successfully managing your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be addressed? Here are several ways:
- You can take some steps to protect your hearing from further damage if you catch your hearing loss early enough. As an example, you could avoid noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
- The impact of hearing loss can be reduced by using hearing aids. So, can cognitive decline be stopped by wearing hearing aids? That’s hard to say, but hearing aids can improve brain function. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be capable of participating in more conversations, your brain won’t have to work so hard, and you’ll be a little more socially connected. Your risk of developing dementia later in life is reduced by managing hearing loss, research suggests. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.
- Come see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you might have.
Other ways to decrease your dementia risk
You can decrease your chance of cognitive decline by doing some other things as well, of course. This might include:
- Get some exercise.
- Stop smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, including your chance of developing cognitive decline (this list also includes excessive alcohol use).
- Getting enough sleep at night is crucial. Some studies have linked an increased chance of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep every night.
- Eating more healthy food, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to bring it down.
The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being studied by scientists. There are so many causes that make this disease so complicated. But the lower your risk, the better.
Being able to hear is its own advantage
So, over time, hearing better will reduce your general risk of cognitive decline. You’ll be improving your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more muffled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely trips to the grocery store.
It’s no fun losing out on life’s important moments. And a small amount of hearing loss management, possibly in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.
So make sure to schedule an appointment with us today!