Before you dismiss your hearing loss as “not that bad,” you need to learn about the link between hearing loss and dementia. In this article, we’ve provided valuable tips to help prevent dementia from negatively impacting your life.
Once their hearing loss becomes apparent to others, people will say all kinds of things to avoid a hearing test or hearing loss treatment.
“My hearing isn’t that bad.” “It’s only bad in one ear.” “The dialogue volume is too low in this movie.” “This restaurant is simply too loud to have a conversation.”
You may make excuses because you think your hearing loss is minimal. Surely, you don’t need treatment from a hearing specialist.
The questioning and hesitance are normal, but delaying treatment can have devastating effects.
What causes dementia?
Scientists really don’t know what causes dementia, but it’s not simply a product of getting older. As science has advanced during the past century, researchers have come to understand that age really is just a number.
Diet and lifestyle have more to do with how you age than simple genetics or the number of candles on your birthday cake.
Tips to help prevent dementia
Despite not having a clear understanding of its cause, scientists have determined certain behaviors will help lessen your risk of dementia, including:
- Managing blood pressure
- Preventing or managing diabetes
- Managing cholesterol
- Reducing inflammation
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Staying social and active
- Learning new things
The preceding list includes several health conditions to manage, and they’re all important to living a long, active, healthy life.
It may come as a surprise, however, that one preventative measure overshadows all of them – treating hearing loss. And that means treating all forms of hearing loss, not just profound hearing loss.
Mild hearing loss and dementia
Several studies have shown individuals with noticeable hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia. If you’re questioning whether you’re experiencing hearing loss, then it’s noticeable.
A recent study followed over 600 individuals for 12 to 18 years. Each person was mentally sharp at the beginning of the study but had some level of hearing loss. The study found a direct correlation between the severity of hearing loss and the likelihood of developing dementia.
Those with moderate untreated hearing loss were 300% more likely to develop dementia. Participants with mild hearing loss didn’t fare much better. They had a 200% chance of developing dementia compared to people with healthy hearing and those who had their hearing loss treated.
Do you still think your hearing loss isn’t that bad?
How hearing loss affects dementia
More research is needed to confirm a cause-and-effect relationship between hearing loss and dementia. Based on the science available so far, however, researchers have some sound theories as to the link between the two conditions.
First, hearing loss puts an incredible strain on your brain. Your daily life involves solving the puzzle of what someone said by “reading between the lines.” This may sound like a great exercise for your brain, but like any workout, overdoing causes fatigue and injury.
This constant cognitive stress will cause tension and take resources away from your memory processing and other intellectual skills.
Second, communication skills develop in the hearing center of the brain for individuals with healthy hearing. As you slowly lose your hearing, this part of the brain slowly shuts down. As it does, the shutdown spreads to other parts of your brain.
On MRI machines, doctors can actually observe the brains of individuals with hearing loss get smaller as their hearing loss goes untreated.
There are additional steps you can take to prevent dementia, including staying active, engaged, and social, which are much more difficult to achieve with untreated hearing loss.
Does hearing loss treatment help prevent dementia?
Studies show getting hearing loss treated can prevent the advancement of dementia. In a study performed in France, 80% of participants who received treatment after experiencing cognitive decline showed substantial improvement after one year.
Despite this finding, only about 15 to 20% of individuals experiencing noticeable hearing loss are wearing their hearing aids regularly. Only about 25% of them had their hearing tested and purchased hearing aids, which research shows could further help prevent dementia.
Follow the tips in this article to help prevent dementia and get tested by a hearing specialist as soon as possible to determine whether you need hearing loss treatment.