You may have heard through the grapevine that hearing loss can affect your health and contribute to the onset of dementia. Though there are many studies that assert this claim, health takes on many shapes and forms. While it’s true that you don’t have complete control of your health, your actions certainly have a big influence. Here are some key details about dementia and hearing loss to ponder.
What is dementia?
Dementia is not specific to one disease; it is the general term that covers a wide variety of medical conditions. Symptoms grouped under “dementia” are caused by the gradual loss of brain function that include memory, language, problem-solving and thinking abilities that interfere with daily life. This may seem a little rudimentary when you think about the occasional birthday forgotten or whether your favorite pasta dish calls for one cup of tomato sauce or two–but imagine constant confusion on how to perform the simplest tasks or remember the most trivial details like the name of a family member or close friend.
How is hearing loss linked to dementia?
The link between hearing loss and dementia is still widely speculated, but according to a 12-year study conducted by Dr. Frank Lin and his team at the John Hopkins University, mild hearing loss doubled the risk of dementia. According to Dr. Lin, brain scans reveal hearing loss can speed up the rate of brain atrophy (loss of functioning neurons) otherwise known as cognitive decline.
Maybe you’ve noticed it’s become increasingly difficult to understand a conversation or you find yourself turning up the volume a considerable amount just to hear your favorite sitcom. Is this a sign of dementia? Hardly–though it may be time to get your hearing checked! Truth be it; hearing loss may not be as prominent in the cause of dementia rather the effects that come from untreated hearing loss that can lead to it. According to the Lancet Report on dementia prevention and intervention, hearing loss ranked number one in modifiable risk factors followed by education, brain injury and hypertension.
Although extensive research is still needed to pinpoint the exact correlation between hearing loss and dementia, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) notes that social isolation has long been recognized as a factor for cognitive decline and dementia. Social isolation can transpire in people with hearing loss who may become reclusive and lose sight of regular communication and socialization–two key components needed to maintain mental health.
Read more on how clear communication can boost your mental health.
Take action. You’re worth it!
While there isn’t enough research to conclude the direct link between hearing loss and dementia, you can take preventative measures today that can help you shape a healthier tomorrow. These simple steps can inspire a more comfortable lifestyle and keep your mind active and engaged.
- Get your hearing checked. Early detection is critical to avoid negative effects of untreated hearing loss like social isolation and cognitive decline. You and your hearing care professional can explore different treatment and hearing solution options that might work best for you.
- Explore hearing technology. Studies show that hearings aids can delay the onset of dementia and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Contact your audiologist and set up a hearing evaluation to see if hearing aids are the right approach for you. You can also pair hearing aids with captioned phone calls to keep you connected with family and friends!
- Live a healthy lifestyle. A diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat products can help keep your brain healthy. For example, evidence show that people who eat a Mediterranean diet are at a lower risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia. For more on cognitive health visit the National Institute on Aging.
Life is full of curious wonders. Does hearing loss lead to dementia? How many stars fill the night sky? We may never know, but one thing is for certain–your actions influence your health! Make strides in the right direction and get your hearing checked today.