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Make the connection: Hearing loss and dementia

It’s a well-known fact that, as we get older, we tend to experience some level of decline in our cognitive ability. For some of us it may be mild, and for others more serious. Although a normal part of aging, typical issues tend to pop up, including forgetting details, taking longer to learn new things, and difficulty concentrating or focusing. We might not be able to stop it  but recent and emerging studies tell us that we may be able to slow it down.

And the great news is that understanding the link between hearing loss and brain fitness can help you get started on the road to better overall health.

The relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline

Studies suggest that older people with hearing loss are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and hearing loss can be associated with a faster rate of cognitive decline*. Why is this?

Researchers have several theories:

1. One has to do with cognitive load. With untreated hearing loss, the brain gets overworked by constantly straining to understand speech and sound. An overworked brain doesn’t work efficiently.

2. Another has to do with brain structure. Brain cells can shrink from lack of stimulation, including the parts of the brain that receive and process sound.

3. The last theory is social isolation. When a person has trouble hearing conversations and socializing, they may prefer staying home instead. However, the more isolated a person becomes, the less stimuli their brain receives. 

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Hearing care is health care™

Dementia and cognitive decline aren’t the only conditions linked with hearing loss. Research associates it with a variety of other conditions, including:

  • Heart and cardiovascular disease

  • Diabetes

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Chronic kidney disease


Experts say that one of the most important things we can do to keep our brains (and bodies) healthy as we age is to stay mentally stimulated**. Keeping up an active social life with our friends, family, or business associates is one of many ways to be mentally engaged. And we can encourage this through good hearing health, including the use of hearing aids for those with hearing loss


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Maintain your brain with hearing aids

Studies show that the proper use of hearing aids can lower your risk factor of dementia. In fact, a study** documented hearing loss and cognitive decline among a group of nearly 4000 volunteers over a 25-year period. What researchers found was interesting  people with hearing loss who didn’t use hearing aids had a higher risk of dementia and depression. However, people with hearing loss who did use hearing aids experienced cognitive decline at a rate similar to people without hearing loss.

The researchers concluded that the key wasn’t simply the ability to hear better but, more importantly, how better hearing allowed them to stay involved in everyday life. By restoring the ability to better communicate, hearing aids can help improve social interactions, mood, and provide the opportunity to participate in brain-stimulating activities that can help slow cognitive decline.

Stay smart. Stay healthy.
Get your hearing tested.

Treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids can be an important factor in slowing the progression of cognitive decline. A hearing checkup is simply part of your overall health plan.

It’s never too early or too late to work on your hearing health. More than 35 million Americans suffer from hearing loss — and some are unaware of their condition, some are putting off making an appointment. But don’t let hearing loss go untreated over time. Make an appointment with a hearing professional today.

Find a hearing care professional in your area

 

* Wei et al. 2017, Hearing Impairment, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Dementia: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies.
** Amieva et al. 2015, Self-Reported Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-Year Study.

 

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