Want to take all the fun out of your next family gathering? Start to talk about dementia.
Dementia is not a topic most individuals are actively looking to talk about, mainly because it’s rather scary. A degenerative cognitive disease in which you slowly (or, more terrifyingly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory loss. No one wants to go through that.
So preventing or at least slowing dementia is a priority for many people. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have several fairly 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 are the dangers of dementia increased with hearing loss?>
When you neglect hearing loss, what are the repercussions?
Maybe you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you aren’t that worried about it. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your television won’t solve, right? Maybe you’ll simply put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.
Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unobserved so far. Maybe the signs are still easy to disregard. Either way, hearing loss and mental decline have a powerful correlation. That could have something to do with what occurs when you have untreated hearing loss.
- It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. As a result, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You can withdraw from friends, family, and loved ones. You won’t talk with people as much. This kind of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. And naturally your social life. What’s more, many people who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they most likely won’t connect their isolation to their hearing.
- Your brain will begin to work much harder. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t get 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 current concept is, when this happens, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. The idea is that over time this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also result in all manner of other symptoms, like mental stress and exhaustion.
So your hearing impairment isn’t quite as innocuous as you may have suspected.
One of the leading signs of dementia is hearing loss
Perhaps your hearing loss is mild. Whispers might get lost, but you can hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.
So one of the initial signs of dementia can be even mild hearing loss.
So… How should we interpret this?
We’re considering risk in this situation which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. Rather, it just means you have a higher chance of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But that might actually be good news.
Your risk of dementia is decreased by effectively dealing with your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be controlled? There are a number of ways:
- Come in and see us so we can help you diagnose any hearing loss you might have.
- The impact of hearing loss can be reduced by wearing hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids stop cognitive decline? That’s hard to say, but hearing aids can enhance brain function. This is why: You’ll be capable of participating 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 in the future is minimized by treating hearing loss, research indicates. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
- You can take some steps to protect your hearing from further harm 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 around anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
Lowering your chance of dementia – other methods
You can reduce your chance of cognitive decline by doing some other things as well, of course. Here are a few examples:
- A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is generally healthy can go a long way. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to take medication to bring it down.
- Be sure you get enough sleep each night. Some studies link fewer than four hours of sleep every night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
- Get some exercise.
- Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will increase your chance of dementia as well as impacting your general health (excessive alcohol use can also go on this list).
The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being researched by scientists. It’s a complex disease with a matrix of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.
Hearing is its own benefit
So, over time, hearing better will decrease your overall risk of cognitive decline. You’ll be bettering your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely visits 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 considerably.
So call us today for an appointment.