Reduce Dementia Risk by Treating Hearing Loss

hearing loss and dementia

1 in 3 seniors has hearing loss

Hearing loss is the 3rd most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease. At age 65, 1 out of 3 people has hearing loss.

Nobody can see hearing loss, so you might think your older adult’s odd behavior is caused by disinterest, confusion, or personality changes. But sometimes it’s hearing loss that’s being confused with signs of dementia.

 

80% of seniors don’t ask for hearing help

Only 20% of people who could benefit from hearing treatment actually seek help. Most put it off until they can’t communicate even in the best listening situations.

Can you believe that the average hearing aid user waits over 10 years after their initial diagnosis to get their first set of hearing aids?

 

Hearing loss is linked to serious conditions

Something as simple as a hearing aid could have a huge influence on healthy brain function. Multiple studies have found links between hearing loss, cognitive decline, and dementia.

Over 6 years, cognitive abilities (like memory and concentration) of people with hearing loss declined 30 – 40% faster than in people with normal hearing. Hearing loss is also linked to increased stress, depression, bad moods, and increased hospitalization and fall risks.

That means untreated hearing loss is a much bigger problem than having the TV on too loud or shouting during normal conversation.

 

Why hearing loss could cause dementia

There are 3 main theories for why hearing loss might increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

1. Cognitive load
If the brain is constantly coping with sounds that are difficult to hear, it’s busy processing those sounds and can’t spend energy on things like memory and thinking.

2. Brain atrophy
Hearing impairment could contribute to faster rates of wasting away in parts of the brain that process sound. Those parts of the brain also help with memory and senses. They’ve also been shown to be involved in early stages of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Social isolation
People who have a hard time hearing often withdraw from social activities because it’s so hard to communicate with other people. Many studies have found that decreased social engagement and loneliness are risk factors for cognitive decline.

 

Bottom line

Pay attention to your older adult’s hearing and have them see a doctor or audiologist if they show signs of hearing loss.

Getting proper treatment as soon as possible helps seniors reduce dementia risk, maintain good quality of life, and stay as independent as possible.

 

You might also like:
10 Common Signs of Hearing Loss in Seniors
Affordable Hearing Aid Alternatives for Seniors: Hearing Amplifiers
How to Get the Best Hearing Aids from the Audiologist

 

By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Sources: Hearing Loss Association of America, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Chicago Tribune
Image: Gulf Coast Audiology

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