Your ears catch the sound in your world, but it’s your brain that makes sense of it. New research suggests that hearing loss could have a greater cost on your brain than just the loss of information. Hearing loss could actually be a risk indicator for cognitive decline linked to dementia. Or, to look at the bright side, hearing correction can actually delay the onset of dementia, research shows.
Dementia is a general term used to describe severe memory loss and a decline in mental ability usually affecting those 65 years and older. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. The risk of developing dementia increases for older adults if they have hearing loss, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers found that for adults 50 years and older, those with poor hearing were more likely to have a dementia diagnosis than those with normal hearing. Other factors that increase the statistical likelihood of dementia include hypertension, obesity, smoking, depression, inactivity, social isolation and diabetes.
But dementia may be delayed by tackling these risk factors. A new report suggests that as many as one third of all dementia cases may be delayed or prevented by eliminating some of the risk factors — specifically, active treatment of hypertension in middle and old age, as well as increasing exercise and social engagement, reducing smoking, and managing hearing loss, depression, diabetes, and obesity.
It is estimated that more than 40 million Americans have noise-induced hearing loss (the most preventable type of hearing loss). But these findings suggest that rather than just being an inconvenient part of aging, hearing loss may play a much more important role in brain health than we’ve previously thought.
Just as many adults are diligent about getting yearly physicals, it is good practice to schedule a hearing test every year. Make an appointment with our qualified staff to have your hearing evaluated. Once we have a baseline audiogram, we can watch for changes and take action if necessary.
If you are diagnosed with hearing loss and hearing aids are recommended, don’t delay treatment. Today’s hearing devices are discreet, comfortable and connect to the latest technology. Not only will you be able to hear better, recent research indicates your brain will be healthier, too.