If you have the niggling feeling that your hearing isn’t what it used to be, get to an Audiologist, quick-sharp. Why? Because letting your hearing problem slowly get worse can cause countless other health, relationship and cognitive problems.
Age-related hearing loss is common in seniors over 65. So common that you’d think people would have a good awareness of how to manage it and the treatment options available. Sadly that’s not the case and often hearing loss becomes a taboo subject that friends and family ignore until the problem becomes unavoidable.
The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Early treatment can prevent the associated risk factors that can come along with hearing loss.
What are the associated risks of hearing loss?
One of the most significant associated risks of hearing loss is dementia and Alzheimer’s (a form of dementia). There are a number of reasons for this.
Untreated hearing loss often makes you feel isolated. It’s difficult to join group conversations, going out becomes daunting, unmanageable, and stressful. Over a short time, this reduced social activity can quickly lead to negativity, depression, cognitive decline, and reduced independence. It can also lead to dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
What’s the science behind the dementia-hearing loss connection?
Dementia is a disease that causes the brain to stop functioning properly. Understanding cerebral atrophy and cognitive overload can help us understand the link.
What’s cerebral atrophy?
Cerebral atrophy means a loss of neural connections in the brain. It can happen when a person stops getting the daily stimulation they need or are used to from daily activities and social interactions. This loss of neural connections leads the brain to shrink and lose function which in turn leads to dementia.
Aside from reduced daily activities, and a lack of social interaction, hearing loss itself is associated with accelerated cerebral atrophy. When ears stop functioning properly they stop sending signals to the area of the brain that should receive sound. Because that part of the brain doesn’t receive signals anymore, it thinks it’s no longer needed and starts to wither away. This can start a domino effect leading other areas of the brain to fade, and yes, dementia.
What’s cognitive overload?
This is when your brain has to strain too hard to hear. Your brain is built to hear, so when you experience hearing loss your brain can become very confused. It will try extra hard to interpret the sounds you hear. Because hearing loss can affect some frequencies more than others, it may be that you don’t hear the high parts of someone’s speech, perhaps the S’s are lost, or maybe separating background noise from a conversation becomes difficult. This can all be very confusing and difficult for your brain to work out. The confusion overloads your brain and it tries to fill the missing pieces of words and noises around you. All of this increased cognitive pressure can be a trigger for dementia.
Enough of the bad news. Let’s hear some good news!
Treat hearing problems early and you can set aside these scary risk factors. People who treat their hearing loss have a much healthier outlook when it comes to their brain function, independence, and reducing the associated risks of hearing loss.
There’s no need to feel ashamed, isolated or embarrassed about your hearing loss. Talk your loved ones. Getting the support of friends, family, and an experienced Audiologist along with treating your hearing loss is enough to keep your brain on track and save you from premature dementia.
The hearing aids available today are very discreet. Many of them are pretty much invisible. So, why suffer the risk of cognitive decline when you can get help, support, and discreet treatment? Taking the first step may need a little courage but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how your quality of life can be improved when you take the leap to find help with your hearing loss.
Get help today
Audiologist Dr. Ashley Thom and her assistant at Selective Hearing in Louisiana offer a dedicated, supportive, and personalized service. Having your first hearing test can feel daunting, so it’s good to know what to expect by reading our “What To Expect From Your First Hearing Evaluation” blog. If you’re worried about the cost of treating your hearing loss, you can relax knowing that Selective Hearing will work with your insurance providers to help cover costs.
Don’t wait, call us today if you or a loved one is having trouble hearing.
An Abbeville, Louisiana native, Dr. Thom realized her love for speech, language, and hearing while taking a speech pathology class her junior year at LSU. After completing a bachelor of arts in communications disorders, that love persisted, and Dr. Thom graduated in 2011 with a clinical doctorate in audiology from Louisiana Tech University. Dr. Thom continues to make sounds and language more accessible to her patients and likes to learn about their unique hearing and communication needs. An active member of the Louisiana Academy of Audiology, she has been serving as a board member for two years, and was the 2016-17 President of LAA.