In addition to a festive season, November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan made November a month to shine some light on this difficult disease. Here at Hearing Group, our commitment to hearing health leads us to search for the link between untreated hearing loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Hearing Loss and Communication
As families come together this season, many of us look forward to catching up and sharing our experiences from the year. But, for people with hearing loss, the holidays may be a stressful time. With festive music playing and many conversations happening at the same time, trouble hearing can keep people from being social. For many, hearing loss means being able to hear, but not able to understand. Over time, these people are more likely to withdraw from their relationships and avoid social gatherings. Unfortunately, social isolation is a big risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies on Hearing Loss and Dementia
Recent studies show a link between untreated hearing loss, cognitive ability, and the risk of dementia.
At Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Frank Lin has found a strong link between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Their studies show that a mild hearing loss doubled the risk of dementia. A moderate loss tripled the risk, and those with a severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop dementia.
In one study, Dr. Lin tracked 639 older participants and tested their cognitive abilities over 12-18 years. They found that those who did not treat their hearing loss showed a decline in their cognitive abilities compared to those who treated their hearing loss with the use of hearing aids.
Hearing Loss and the Brain
Hearing happens in the brain through a very complex process. When our ears pick up sound, these sound waves travel through the middle ear into the inner ear, where they are translated into signals, They then can be processed by the brain. With hearing loss, a breakdown in this process could affect cognitive abilities.
A person with hearing loss may struggle to make sense of sound in their environment. They may also struggle with conversation. As a result, the brain must work harder to make sense of these small bits of sound. When the brain does this over and over again, it creates a heavier cognitive load, which in turn tires out the brain and takes away from other processes. Researchers think this change of process could open up the risk of developing dementia.
Another connection between hearing loss and dementia lies in the experience of social isolation. With untreated hearing loss, people may begin to feel higher levels of stress and anxiety when it comes to conversations with others. When this anxiety becomes too much, people begin to avoid events with challenging noise environments. Unfortunately, social isolation can have detrimental effects on our cognitive abilities. Social interactions are the key to keeping the mind sharp. Socializing helps to keep the brain active through taking in new information and responding to questions. This link to social isolation may be the key to the connection between hearing loss and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Seek Treatment for Hearing Loss at Hearing Group
This holiday season, why not give yourself the gift of better hearing? The benefits of taking care of your hearing loss are more than words can express. You and your loved ones can experience the joy of easy and clear communication once again.
The first step to better hearing health is to contact our team at Hearing Group to schedule a hearing test and consultation. If a hearing loss is detected, our team will work with you to find the best course of treatment. The most common hearing loss treatment would be hearing aids. With a wide range of features and technologies, we will work with you to find the perfect devices to fit into your life. Reconnect with your loved ones with Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and contact us today!