Hearing Loss and Dementia

According to the National Institute on Aging, Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 has difficulty hearing.

Age-related hearing loss can have

significant effects on your health, your mobility and your relationships with others. Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor's advice, respond to warnings, and hear phones, doorbells, and smoke alarms. Hearing loss can also make it hard to enjoy talking with family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation. This increases the risk of social withdrawal, depression and even cognitive decline. 


Causes of Hearing Loss


There are a variety of reasons that we lose hearing as we age. Some may be genetic and others are environmental factors. Hearing loss can occur due to high blood-pressure, diabetes, medications, and damage or injury to the ear structure. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs with long-term exposure to noises. This exposure can be from work-related tasks (construction, music industry, etc.) or over exposure to recreational activities such as , shooting or hunting, listening to loud music, or even the sounds of lawnmowers or snowmobiles.


Effects on the Brain & Dementia


As we explored in a previous blog, our brain is a muscle that not only requires proper nutrition, but also exercise in the form of mental stimulation and use of the 5 senses - sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. According to the Hearing Brain Centers of New England, when you quit using one of your senses, such as hearing, that part of your brain shrinks. Several studies from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging, have found that the brains of people “with impaired hearing lost more than an additional cubic centimeter of brain tissue each year compared with those with normal hearing.”


This shrinking of the brain and hearing loss can cause significant cognitive impairment or the inability to remember information. If you are not getting enough auditory or aural stimulation, electrical activity from the auditory nerve to the brain starts to diminish. This may contribute to your brain's ability to make sense of what you are hearing, causing confusion, frustration, social isolation, and anxiety - symptoms similar to those at the onset of Dementia


Prevention


There is no specific way to prevent age-related hearing loss, but there are ways to preserve the hearing you have now.


Measures such as lowering the volume of music played in your headphones or in the room and reducing your exposure to environmental noises by wearing protective earplugs can dramatically maintain the hearing you have. Have your hearing tested by specialists who can provide you with options, such as hearing aides or devices, that can allow you to continue your daily practices and enjoyment of music, movies, and conversation.


If your concerned about your own or your loved ones hearing, get the answers you need by speaking to your family doctor or your local hearing clinics.


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