It’s often perceived that if a person suffering from hearing loss didn’t get immediate treatment, the likelihood of becoming partially or completely deaf increases.
Surprisingly, there are other repercussions associated with untreated hearing loss. One of which is its strong link with dementia.
Does hearing loss cause dementia?
Hearing loss when unaddressed can also create a negative impact on your brain. Without a doubt, your hearing loss can affect your well-being. How is this even possible?
The Department of Speech Language and Hearing Science at the University of Colorado has conducted a study to shed light on the strong link between hearing loss and dementia. The study aims to find out if the brain has the ability to adapt to hearing loss and if it recognizes itself by creating new neuron connections.
According to the study, when an individual develops hearing loss, it also affects the way the brain works as it impairs the quality of the signals which the brain perceives. There are parts of your brain that are designed to help other senses function. Examples of these senses are your sense of touch and sense of sight.
With untreated hearing loss and dementia, these parts have the tendency to take over. This process is referred to as cross-modal cortical reorganization. The brain’s rewiring process can result in cognitive decline. This happens when the cognitive load of your brain increases. Once the reorganization takes place, your ability to think clearly and to understand speech is also affected.
There are areas of your brain which are intended for higher-level thinking. These areas correct the deficiency. The fact that they’re also preoccupied with assisting the part of your brain responsible for your hearing, make them ignore their typical responsibilities. Such an effect can lead to serious cognitive problems. The relationship between dementia and hearing loss can take place even in the early stage of hearing loss.
How does hearing loss cause dementia?
Does hearing loss contribute to dementia? Yes. The reason hearing loss is a risk factor in developing dementia is the changes in your brain structure. According to a research from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, brain atrophy can be at an increased rate due to hearing loss.
The study revealed that areas of your brain which are supposed to process speech and sound shrunk, especially when left unused. If the person with hearing loss doesn’t get immediate treatment, these areas tend to atrophy.
Surprisingly, there’s no difference between the people who use hearing aids and those who don’t have hearing loss when it comes to experiencing cognitive decline. As numerous studies have proven that untreated hearing loss doesn’t only affect the physical aspect of your body, your inability to hear also causes you to become frustrated when you can’t join in conversations for having trouble coping.
Not being able to catch essential information can also be challenging. Although amplification is a common treatment for hearing loss, if the loss already affects the brain, you will need more than just a technique to improve your hearing. When the sense of disengagement already sinks in, you can become anxious and depressed.
On average, people with hearing loss seek treatment only after 10 years. A decade of procrastination leads to encountering difficulties in communicating. These people also isolate themselves and become a likely target for other types of diseases.
If you use hearing aids, you’ll notice an improvement in your mood. You also interact with other people more often. Restoring your ability to communicate to others reduces the chances of developing depression.
Health Issues That Hearing Loss Might Cause
So, could hearing loss and dementia be connected? You increase the rate of cognitive decline due to hearing loss. This is why it’s no longer surprising that people who are found to have hearing loss also develop dementia.
Further studies revealed, based on a survey commissioned by the National Council on Aging that hearing loss left untreated can increase the rates of anxiety, depression, and psychosocial disorders.
Other known health issues associated with untreated hearing loss include stress, paranoia, tinnitus, fatigue, balance issues, and dementia. Untreated hearing loss can also affect your job performance, relationships, career and earning potential. It might be a challenge for a person suffering from hearing loss to live independently.
Hearing and Dementia Are More Common As You Age
Does hearing loss affect dementia? While hearing loss can take place at any age, it is more common as an individual gets older. Backed by research, more and more evidence points to the theory that hearing contributes to increasing the risk of dementia.
However, it’s also interesting to note that just because you have hearing loss doesn’t mean you’ll automatically acquire dementia. There are other things that can reduce your chances for cognitive decline despite your inability to hear.
It’s not too late to promote brain health. Here are different steps you can take to maintain excellent brain health.
1. Stay physically active
Being physically active like engaging in cardiovascular exercise can protect your brain. By incorporating exercise 30 minutes daily, five days a week, you can maintain your brain health and prevent mental decline. Aside from cardiovascular exercise, strength training is also beneficial to your brain health. While you may have a busy schedule, make it a point to squeeze exercise into your daily routine.
2. Maintain good relationships
In this day and age, many people heavily rely on technology to keep themselves entertained. If you remain glued to your seats for long hours, you’re fairly missing out on the essence of making social connections. One way you can improve your brain health is by maintaining good relationships with your family and friends. Engage in a conversation that can stimulate your brain.
3. Be mentally active
It’s not only your body that should be engaged in daily activities but your brain as well. Playing a musical instrument, dancing, playing board games, and other brain-stimulating activities will have a positive effect on the neural connections in your brain. When neural connections are healthy, you’ll also protect your brain from the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
4. Stick to a healthy diet
Do you know the adage that you are what you eat? Eating right can improve your brain health. So focus on consuming more fruits and vegetables and eliminate processed food from your daily diet. You’ll thank yourself for doing so. Fruits and vegetables are not only good for your heart but for your brain as well.
While it’s easy to take the hearing loss for granted, especially when it’s not yet causing any inconvenience in your daily activity, long-term neglect can have a serious impact even if such an impact is not associated with mental decline. An audiologist is trained to provide diagnosis and treatment so you can improve your ability to hear.
In order to get the best treatment possible, you need to undergo a series of evaluation to know the most suitable treatment for your hearing loss. The evaluation’s primary purpose is to find out whether a hearing loss is really present.
Having a baseline understanding of your ability to hear will lead the audiologist in the right direction. Hearing loss happens gradually and can be considered as an invisible condition. You’ll only be aware of its effects when it starts to progress. Going to an audiologist ensures that your hearing loss will be treated immediately once it’s detected.