Untreated Hearing Loss and Dementia Risks

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Untreated Hearing Loss and Dementia Risks

Untreated Hearing Loss and Dementia Risks
Peter Lucier, HIS

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. Alzheimer’s is a brain condition that affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. Just as untreated hearing loss robs you of life’s pleasures, so does dementia, the of the most common forms of Alzheimer’s. Studies here and in Europe and Asia have linked untreated hearing loss with the onset of dementia. Contact Hearing Aid Specialists of the Central Coast today for your free hearing evaluation and take away untreated hearing loss as a factor in being stricken with dementia.

Not a normal part of aging

While eyesight and hearing issues are a normal part of aging, Alzheimer’s is not. In addition to untreated hearing loss, there are several other factors that contribute to increasing your risk of getting Alzheimer’s. They include rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, smoking and obesity. Each of these factors increases your risk of getting dementia three to six times more than someone who doesn’t suffer from those conditions.

Early indicators of Alzheimer’s are more serious than just forgetting where you put your keys. Its more like you get up in the morning and forget how to work the coffeemaker you have used for the past three years.

Other early warning indicators are: getting lost in familiar places, trouble handling cash and paying bills, repeating the same questions over and over in a very short time, taking longer to complete everyday routine tasks, displaying poor judgement, losing things or placing them in odd places, confusion over time and events and mood and personality changes. The personality changes include paranoia and distrust of family members as well as caregivers.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, the ability to carry on a conversation or respond to the environmental and what is happening around you decreases steadily. If you see a loved one having these issues, make sure it is not due to untreated hearing loss!

Cognitive abilities and untreated hearing loss

Hearing loss is a fact of life for 48 million Americans and whether or not you will start to lose your hearing increases as you get older. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, untreated hearing loss diminishes cognitive abilities which leads to dementia.  A study done in Taiwan monitored two groups, one with age-related hearing loss and one without. The risk of dementia was three times higher in the hearing loss group.

The brain as a use it or lose it sort of organ. Social interaction, utilizing your brain outside the home for driving, shopping, hiking and – just walking are all great brain exercises. Baking, doing the crossword puzzle, reading all help keep you sharp. But having to work your brain too hard for some things results in it being not able to do other things.

Untreated hearing loss causes your brain to struggle with decoding sounds and conversations repeatedly. It puts what scientists call a “cognitive load” on certain areas of the brain and not others. If you are using too much of your brain for the same thing – other cognitive abilities are reduced.

Brain imaging studies of seniors with untreated hearing loss shows less gray matter in some parts of the brain. The conclusion by those who studied the data was that the brain didn’t change, but certain brain cells that were no longer being used because of lack of stimulation had started to shrink.

Untreated hearing loss and isolation

Most people with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw from activities outside the home. It is embarrassing to not be able to hear all parts of a conversation and respond correctly. It is also embarrassing to not be able to hear the wait staff discuss the daily special at a restaurant or hear a clerk tell you how much something costs.
Those with untreated hearing loss withdraw from their friends and social circles. This cuts out a valuable piece of social interaction that keeps your cognitive abilities sharp. It leads to depression. Lack of socialization as well as depression have long been recognized as factors that can lead to cognitive decline and dementia.

Positive results with hearing aids

A French study used subjects 65 to 85 with profound deafness in one ear. Each received an implant to improve the hearing in that ear and after one year – 86% of the test subjects showed significant improvement in cognitive abilities. There is no reason to wait for a hearing evaluation or a hearing correction plan. Hearing evaluations at Hearing Aid Specialists of the Central Coast are free and you can even take advantage of our mobile hearing services.

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