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Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

If you have even mild hearing loss, the following scenario will likely be familiar to you: You go out to a restaurant/bar to meet some friends or family. There’s some music playing in the background and there are eight or ten of you around a table. You’re having a hard time picking up what is being said. Even the people who are seated closest to you seem like they’re mumbling through the din of the background noise. You try to keep up, but everyone is talking much faster than you’re able to put together what they’re saying. You think to yourself, “Did she just say ‘peach’ or ‘beach?’ She’s talking about swimming, so probably ‘beach.’” While you went through that logic exercise, two more sentences have been spoken and you got none of them. Pretty soon you give up, maybe you just smile and nod while the conversation swirls around you. You feel exhausted while everyone else is in good spirits and seems to have more energy than ever. After a little while, you excuse yourself and go home, worn out, frustrated, and feeling lonely even though you just passed a couple of hours with some of the people who are closest to you. The next time you have the opportunity to go out, the same thing happens. The time after that, you make up an excuse not to go. You find yourself spending more and more time at home. Does this sound like you?

Hearing Loss & Your Overall Health

Hearing loss is one of the trickiest problems we face as we get older, and it can sometimes be hard to determine what are the effects of hearing loss and what are separate age-related conditions. Studies in recent decades have found that hearing loss tends to promote a lot of other problems, if it is left untreated. As we naturally find social timeless enjoyable, we tend to shy away from it more and more often, as in the scenario above. Over time, the lack of social experiences can result in loneliness, depression, and social isolation. While it isn’t clear exactly why yet, another consequence of untreated hearing loss is a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Intuitively, it makes sense. We use our brains to navigate social situations and take in lots of information from the world. When our ears are no longer providing enough information to our brains, over time, cognitive decline can set in. It really seems true that we must “use it or lose it.”

Higher Rates of Cognitive Decline and Dementia

Even though we’re not entirely sure why this happens, the statistics are clear. Hearing loss is the biggest modifiable risk factor, out of twelve, for eventually developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. Mild hearing loss makes a person twice as likely as a normal-hearing person to experience cognitive decline. Moderate hearing loss makes one three times as likely, and severe hearing loss makes one five times as likely to experience cognitive decline and dementia. Researchers are quick to note that hearing loss is not a guarantee of cognitive decline. If your risk for dementia is low, even five times that low risk will still be very low risk. But, nonetheless, the risk is there.

Hearing Aids Can Help

Evidence is mounting that treating hearing loss with hearing aids all but eliminates the increased risk of dementia that hearing loss brings with it. This is because hearing aids do exactly what is required: deliver more information to the brain. They keep us using our brains! The hearing aids of today are much more sophisticated, powerful, and enjoyable to wear than the hearing aids of the past. They can separate background noise from speech, connect wirelessly to smartphones and other devices, and even allow you to take a hearing test right through a smartphone app. It’s never been easier or more rewarding to use hearing aids! When asked after one year, over 90% of those who wear hearing aids say they are glad they got them. Hearing aid wearers tend to report more self-confidence, more independence, and a greater sense of optimism about their own futures… as well as the future of the world in general! They tend to spend more time outside the house, have more rewarding social relationships, and be in better physical health than those with untreated hearing loss. Wearing hearing aids is not just about trying to prevent the cascade of negative health outcomes that comes along with untreated hearing loss. It’s about actively improving your life, and making sure you get the most out of every day. If you or a loved one is dealing with untreated hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to improve your life!

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