Have you ever wondered about the connection between hearing loss, depression, and dementia? You may think they’re completely unrelated, and that you have a low risk of developing any of these health concerns. However, a study published in 2020 found that hearing loss, depression, and dementia are all connected, and all 3 are common health concerns among older adults.
Studying Hearing Loss, Depression, and Dementia
This recent study looked at data from over 8,500 adults over the age of 60, collected from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center Uniform Data Set. The study found that hearing loss can increase the risk of depression as well as dementia. Depression is also strongly linked to dementia, and older adults with symptoms of depression were more likely to develop dementia.
Another study from the University of Michigan had the same result. This study included over 115,000 older American adults over the age of 65. Some participants had untreated hearing loss, and others wore hearing aids to treat their hearing loss. Follow-up data was collected after 3 years. Older adults with untreated hearing loss were more likely to have depression and dementia in the years following a hearing loss diagnosis.
Does Wearing Hearing Aids Help?
Thankfully, treating hearing loss can make a big difference! Wearing hearing aids doesn’t completely take away your risk of developing depression or dementia as you age, but it does significantly reduce your risk. The University of Michigan study presented their findings that show just how much hearing aids help:
- Hearing aids can reduce the risk of depression by 11%
- Hearing aids can reduce the risk of an accident or fall by 13%
- Hearing aids can reduce cognitive decline and keep your mind sharp.
- Hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease by up to 18%.
How Hearing Loss and Depression are Connected
If you’re living with untreated hearing loss you may struggle to connect with family and friends. Hearing loss makes it hard to follow conversations and understand what’s been said. When communication breaks down, it’s more difficult to maintain close relationships with the people you love. Do you spend most of the conversation asking people to repeat themselves? Do you and your family get frustrated when you can’t understand what’s been said? Hearing loss makes it more difficult to stay connected to the people you love the most.
Hearing loss can also lead to social isolation. When you can’t follow conversations, you may not enjoy spending time with friends. You may choose to stay at home alone rather than face the embarrassment of mishearing what’s being said and then answering inappropriately. Being isolated often leads to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
How Hearing Loss and Dementia Are Connected
Untreated hearing loss has some surprising side effects. If you can’t hear clearly, your brain isn’t getting the right stimulation. Rather than getting signals about all the sounds around you, your brain is missing critical information. You spend a lot of time straining to hear, or trying to fill in the blanks in conversation. The auditory regions of the brain don’t get enough stimulation, and other parts of the brain get overworked. This can increase your risk of dementia. Depression can also contribute to dementia, so if your hearing loss affects your mood, this also increases your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Prioritize Treating Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is quite common. In fact, around one third of adults over age 65 have some degree of hearing loss! Adults with untreated hearing loss all have an increased risk of developing both depression and dementia.
Despite this fact, only one in five people who need hearing aids are actually wearing hearing aids to treat hearing loss. If you think you don’t need hearing aids, it’s time to reconsider. Prioritizing your hearing health can help you maintain your overall well-being as you age. Clear hearing plays a major role in your health. It will also reduce your risk of developing depression or dementia.
Visit us for a hearing test and find out what sounds you aren’t hearing. If you have hearing loss, we’ll help you find the hearing aids that match your lifestyle and fit seamlessly into your life.