Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will most likely put a dark cloud above the whole event.

Dementia isn’t a topic most people are intentionally seeking to discuss, mainly because it’s pretty frightening. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, causes you to lose touch with reality, experience memory loss, and causes an over-all loss of mental faculties. It isn’t something anybody looks forward to.

For this reason, many people are seeking a way to prevent, or at least slow, the development of dementia. There are several clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (a lot, actually)? Why are the risks of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

What happens when your hearing loss is neglected?

Perhaps you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you’re not that worried about it. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your tv won’t fix, right? Maybe you’ll simply turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unnoticed so far. Maybe the signs are still easy to dismiss. In either case, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a powerful connection. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. You could start to keep yourself isolated from others as a result of this. You might become distant from loved ones and friends. You speak to others less. It’s not good for your brain to separate yourself this way. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most individuals who have this type of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working harder. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t get nearly as much audio information (this is sort of obvious, yes, but stick with us). As a result, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This is unbelievably taxing. The current concept is, when this takes place, your brain draws power from your thought and memory centers. The idea is that after a while this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Your brain working so hard can also result in all kinds of other symptoms, like mental fatigue and tiredness.

You might have suspected that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it actually is.

One of the major indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you only have mild hearing impairment. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else sounds just fine. Well, even with that, your risk of developing dementia is doubled.

So one of the preliminary indications of dementia can be even mild hearing loss.

Now… What does that mean?

We’re considering risk in this circumstance which is important to note. Hearing loss isn’t a guarantee of cognitive decline or even an early symptom of dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have an increased risk of developing cognitive decline. But that can actually be good news.

Your risk of dementia is lowered by effectively dealing with your hearing loss. So how do you manage your hearing loss? There are numerous ways:

  • Make an appointment with us to diagnose your current hearing loss.
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help decrease the impact of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids stop cognitive decline? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be enhanced by using hearing aids. This is why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t need to work so hard to carry on discussions. Your chance of developing dementia in the future is minimized by managing hearing loss, research implies. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your hearing. As an example, you could avoid noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re around anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).

Other ways to decrease your dementia risk

Naturally, there are other things you can do to lower your chance of cognitive decline, too. This might include:

  • Getting adequate sleep at night is essential. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep each night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will raise your risk of dementia as well as impacting your general health (excess alcohol drinking is also on this list).
  • Eating more healthy food, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. Sometimes, medication can help here, some people just have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals could need medication sooner than later.

Of course, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complicated. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your general risk of dementia. But it’s not just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely trips to the grocery store.

It’s no fun missing out on life’s important moments. And a small amount of hearing loss management, perhaps in the form of a hearing aid, can help considerably.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us right away!

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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