Hearing Loss and Dementia

How does hearing loss potentially lead to dementia?

A growing body of research is pointing to the idea that hearing loss and dementia are linked. Even a mild hearing loss is thought to double your chances of getting dementia. The risk increases as your hearing loss develops. Those with moderate hearing loss are three times more likely to develop dementia, and those with severe hearing loss are five times more likely. 

Signs of Dementia
dementia

lack of social interaction

A lack of social interaction

A possible reason for this association between Alzheimer's disease and hearing loss has to do with the communication process. Spoken communication is an essential way to maintain cognitive skills, and language problems, such as remembering words for stuff or placing together logical groups of thoughts, tend to be an early indicator of dementia.
cognitive load

Cognitive load

Someone with hearing loss gets only random fragments of sound and syllables when listening to others talk in noisy environments. When the mind is tasked to understand conversations with only a few pieces of the puzzle, the cognitive burden can be considerable. Many scientists believe that the brain of an individual with hearing loss struggling to put together meaningful sentences can spread to other mental processes, including those connected with dementia.

Signs of Dementia

Here are some of the tell-tale behaviors that you might notice in those with dementia:
memory loss

Memory Loss

Memory Loss: People with dementia may forget recent events and often miss appointments. They may start to struggle to remember some personal information, such as a phone number or an address that they have remembered for a long time.
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Language problems

Language problems: People with dementia will find it difficult to express themselves with their desired words. They may discover it difficult to comprehend other people's words, which makes communication difficult. Personality and mood changes go hand in hand with dementia, and families often feel that their loved ones have completely changed their personality as the disease progresses.
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Trouble performing routine tasks

Trouble performing routine tasks: When dementia develops, people might find it difficult to perform daily routines, including driving a vehicle, showering and getting dressed. Because brain cells cannot interact, these simple tasks are challenging, and often people with Alzheimer's must move into a nursing home or a help centre to receive help with their basic needs.

  • please note:

    Symptoms of hearing loss and dementia are often comparable–not responding to questions or reacting incorrectly, or struggling to comprehend sounds, including conversation. Doctors often misdiagnose hearing loss as dementia: individuals may be treated for a disorder which they do not have, but their hearing loss continues untreated. Untreated hearing loss can make it harder for someone to deal with dementia –and can aggravate dementia-related behaviors, such as aggression and anxiety.

Treating hearing loss can lower risk of dementia

Hearing loss is therefore a major risk factor for developing dementia but, fortunately, the impacts of hearing loss can be mitigated. We may be able to reduce our risk of developing dementia by taking steps to address our hearing loss. Research indicates that the use of hearing aids may decrease our probability of developing dementia.

Seniors with hearing loss are considerably more susceptible to developing dementia over time than those who manage to preserve their hearing, according to research by academics from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging.

A French study also supports this conclusion. This study followed almost 3,800 individuals over a 25-year period and discovered that seniors and elderly individuals who say they have hearing loss and do not use hearing aids have a much greater chance of developing dementia. The research also found that those who used hearing aids eliminated this increased risk.

Although research in this area is ongoing, the signs are indeed encouraging that treating hearing loss through the use of hearing aids could be a surprisingly important way to reduce the risk of dementia in our society.

If you think that you could benefit from the use of hearing aids, our professional team can assist you choose the correct one for you. But before we can do that, we need to understand what your hearing requirements are. Please contact us today for a hearing test.