Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center offers free hearing tests, and you should treat yourself to one as a holiday present. Why would we suggest a hearing test in an article about National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, you ask?
A growing body of research shows potential links between the onset of dementia and untreated hearing loss – and Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common causes of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is “a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.”
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
In the US, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Dementia destroys cognitive processing – the ability to speak, relate to time and place, and interact with other individuals. In 1983, to raise awareness about this devastating condition, then-President Ronald Reagan deemed November National Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Here at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center, we want to honor this month by discussing the link between untreated hearing loss and a potential risk for developing dementia.
Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the US. While there is not a firm link between untreated hearing loss and the onset of dementia, studies have shown not using the parts of your brain associated with sound processing correctly can hasten the onset of dementia. Researchers have indicated hearing loss may be an indicator that an individual is at risk for cognitive decline and aggressively diagnosing and treating hearing loss is warranted.
Dementia Risk Factors & Links to Hearing Loss
It is important to stress here that there is no direct link between hearing loss to dementia. However, untreated hearing loss often creates conditions that could pose risks for developing dementia.
There are nine risk factors associated with an increased risk of dementia: lack of education, midlife hypertension, obesity, depression, diabetes, physical inactivity, smoking, social isolation and hearing loss. Research and studies in Europe and the United States have identified four ways that hearing loss and dementia are linked.
- High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can destroy sensitive cells in the auditory canal which can lead to hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss could cause social isolation, which increases the risk for developing dementia.
- Cognitive Load: Your brain is wired to process experiences a certain way. Untreated hearing loss means the brain is saddled with a heavier “cognitive load.” While you struggle to decipher sounds and conversation, your brain has to work harder than it would with normal hearing. Your hearing loss causes your brain to pull resources from other functions (problem solving, encoding memories), which could cause fatigue. This could make you vulnerable for developing dementia. While there is no hard and fast link between hearing aids and increased cognitive power, one psychologist said after analyzing study data, “I have no doubt that if a cochlear implant (or hearing devices) makes it easier for a person to listen – then they will be able to spend more their (brain) power to do cognitively-demanding tasks.”
- Grey Matter: Hearing loss may affect brain structure, which in turn could contribute to cognitive problems. Brain imaging studies show that older adults with untreated hearing loss have less grey matter in the part of their brain that receives and processes sound from the ears. In other words, due to untreated hearing loss, certain parts of your brain may not be properly stimulated.
- Social Isolation: Social isolation is one of the most important factors contributing to dementia. Studies point to the social isolation that follows untreated hearing loss. When we find it difficult to communicate with our friends and loved ones, we begin to grow distant from our most important relationships and avoid activities we once loved. Untreated hearing loss has also been linked with increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Treat Your Hearing Loss with Hearing Aids
For people with hearing loss, the most common form of treatment is a pair of hearing aids. Hearing aids are designed to improve speech recognition and give you access to a greater range of sound in diverse sound environments. They keep you connected to your loved ones and your favorite activities.
If you have experienced changes in your hearing, start your journey to better hearing health – and overall health – with a hearing consultation at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center! Our team has been guiding individuals through the process of getting the correct hearing aids for four decades. You can “test drive” your hearing devices to ensure that you have the best devices to meet your needs.
Just imagine sitting down to a great holiday meal, surrounded by family and friends, and having access to every word! Hearing tests are free – call us at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center today!