It's not easy suffering from hearing loss. In addition to an unwelcome reduction in sound quality, we might start needing our TV to be louder, asking our friends to repeat themselves, or being told off by our spouse for not paying attention.
But recent research has revealed something about this common condition that could have severe implications for sufferers: hearing loss is also bad for your brain.
A recent round of studies have found what appears to be a relationship between untreated hearing loss and the onset of dementia.
In a nearly 12-year study, Johns Hopkins Professor of Otolaryngology Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues discovered that minor hearing loss increased the risk of dementia. People with moderate hearing loss were three times more likely to acquire dementia, while those with severe hearing loss were five times more likely.
"Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain," according to Lin. "Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia."
Alzheimer's disease is a brain disease that affects the brain areas that control cognitive activities such as thinking, remembering, and speaking.
It causes sections of the brain cells to shrink. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of people with dementia.
Memory loss and loss of cognitive ability are the most prevalent signs of Alzheimer's disease, leading to withdrawal from society and jobs. Although memory loss is one of the early indicators of Alzheimer's disease, forgetfulness should not be mistaken for it. Walking into a park where you've walked hundreds of times before and not remembering which path to take to get out is an example of memory loss. Forgetting your keys because you pulled them out of your pocket and setting them down is forgetfulness.
Alzheimer's disease usually appears at 65, but it can appear sooner. Hearing loss and Alzheimer's disease progress slowly, but untreated hearing loss raises the risk of dementia, and unlike dementia, it is treatable.
Other signs of Alzheimer's Disease include:
Use it before you lose it.
There is no treatment for Alzheimer's, but there are several things you can do to help yourself, one of which is to keep your hearing in good shape.
The theory is that appropriately processing sounds sends auditory signals to the brain. It stimulates and engages that part of the brain. If you don't treat your hearing loss, the portions of your brain that process sound will eventually go dark. Brain MRI scans of people with untreated hearing loss and dementia reveal dark or underused brain areas.
Nearly 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, and data suggest that many people wait three to five years to get their hearing loss corrected. The brain strains to "hear" and process noises and conversations during this time. This is called 'cognitive load' and occurs when brain power used for cognitive tasks is diverted to attempting to comprehend and analyze noises. An increase in the cognitive load can accelerate the onset of dementia.
Isolation is another issue to consider. Hearing loss that isn't corrected can cause you to retreat from social situations. You may not want others to notice that you cannot hear or process conversations. There are some signs that depression combined with social seclusion due to untreated hearing loss may raise the risk of dementia. These connections also aid in maintaining mental sharpness.
Hearing aids, fortunately, reactivate those areas of the brain. According to studies, hearing devices help people with dementia and untreated hearing loss improve their cognitive abilities.
Scheduling a hearing evaluation at Glendora Hearing is the first step toward better hearing health. Our painless hearing test will detect if you have hearing loss, and we will then help you get on the road to better hearing health.
Today, hearing aid types range from ultra-compact devices that fit inside your ear to over-the-ear devices that are colored to match your skin or hair. Most individuals cannot distinguish between a hearing aid and a Bluetooth device! Schedule your hearing test today.