Age related hearing loss is the breakdown of hearing over time and is the most common type of hearing loss. Age related hearing loss affects 1 in3 seniors over 65 and half of those over 70. While you may think that hearing loss is just an ear issue it affects so many aspects of our life as we age, from our relationships to our sense of independence. Researchers continue to uncover evidence that untreated hearing loss increases your chances of developing dementia.
Dementia and Wellbeing
Dementia is actually a group of conditions characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgment. When dementia develops, it is common to become forgetful, absent minded, struggle with social skills, reasoning and daily functioning becomes so difficult that full time care taking is required. While doctors and scientists still struggle to find the causes of dementia, researchers from Johns Hopkins University are finding evidence which links quicker development and a higher likeliness of dementia in those with untreated hearing loss.
The Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia
When we struggle to hear many find themselves having to ask people to repeat themselves over and over. If this happens once or twice it is not a big deal but as this becomes a regular occurrence, people on both sides of a conversation may become frustrated. Relationships between family members, friends and co-workers suffer as hearing loss goes ignored.
Many seniors with hearing loss choose to avoid social situations rather than deal with the discomfort of miscommunication. With isolation often comes depression, lack of self-confidence and under stimulation of the brain. As seniors self isolate, their brains actually become in danger of shrinking. This is referred to brain atrophy and increases the risk of developing dementia quicker.
Cognitive Health and Hearing Loss
Dr Frank Lin, an otologist and researcher at Johns Hopkins University has published many studies illuminating the link between hearing loss and dementia. His research has uncovered the effects of hearing loss on cognitive functioning, concentration, memory, and planning. Dr. Lin found that those with hearing loss experience far more cognitive decline than seniors who treat their hearing. Living with untreated hearing loss puts a lot of extra strain on the brain.
When seniors have to put effort into interpreting sound with limited audio information this can lead to extreme fatigue and frustration. Putting energy toward hearing, takes away energy devoted towards the meaning of words. The actual structure of the brain can begin to change when hearing goes untreated. As seniors withdrawal from conversation unused parts of the auditory cortex in the brain can atrophy, creating a higher risk for developing dementia.
How Treating Hearing Loss Can Prevent or Delay Dementia
Hearing loss generally develops slowly, so most do not realize it has occurred until it becomes difficult to hear in the most ideal of situations. Even so many seniors continue to deny or refuse to treat their hearing loss. While age related hearing loss is irreversible it can be treated with hearing aids. When seniors invest in hearing aids they are able to hear the people around them. They can maintain the relationships that matter to them, stay more alert and maintain a higher sense of self-esteem.
Seniors who can stay social are more connected to the world and can pursue hobbies, volunteer and generally stay more active. A 2019 study from the University of Michigan found that seniors, who wear their hearing aids regularly, have a lower risk of being diagnosed with dementia, depression or anxiety over a three-year period and had a lower risk of suffering fall-related injuries.
Seek Treatment Today!
However the National Institute on Deafness and communication Disorders has found that “among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them.
Don’t be part of this statistic. Don’t let hearing loss keep you from continuing to connect with the people you love and impact your quality of life. If you are reaching 65 years, the likeliness that you have a hearing loss becomes much greater. Make sure to have your hearing tested annually to detect a hearing loss before it starts to impact your life in irreversible ways.