Understand the Connection between Hearing Loss and Dementia
Dementia is the continuous deterioration of mental capacities, such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning, that many people experience as they age. This condition affects up to 50 million individuals worldwide. Hearing loss is another common chronic illness, affecting more than 9 million people over the age of 65 and 10 million people between the ages of 45 and 64.
As attested by years of research, deafness and dementia have a well-established relationship. Various studies on ageing adults have shown that seniors with hearing issues have a significantly greater lifetime risk of developing dementia than seniors without hearing impairment. While there is no proof that hearing issue causes dementia, they can raise the risk of dementia by up to five times. Nonetheless, studies suggest that there is a connection between hearing impairment and cognitive decline in seniors.
How can hearing loss lead to dementia?
- The persistent struggle to hear may stress the brain to the point that less energy is allotted to tasks like memory and cognition.
- When some regions of the brain that control hearing are not stimulated sufficiently, they might shrink.
- Ongoing research suggests that hearing problems and dementia may have the same physiological pathway, such as elevated blood pressure.
- Another risk involved with deafness is that it causes social isolation, which is the risk factor for cognitive decline and depression.
Hearing loss and the brain
According to a 2020 panel study, deafness has been identified as one of the top risk factors for dementia. It increases the likelihood of developing the same. It is believed that deafness accounts for 8% of dementia cases. This indicates that 800,000 of the almost 10 million new diagnoses of dementia identified each year may be caused by hearing impairment.
Social isolation and mental distress
Deafness can strain the brain, as the brain tries hard to hear and connect the dots. This comes at the price of impairing other processes like thought and memory. Another theory is that hearing impairment causes the ageing brain to shrink faster. This happens as deafness causes people to be less social, making them intellectually inactive. If someone is hard of hearing, they avoid going out as much, which means the brain is less engaged or hardly busy.
Decreasing the risk of dementia
Leading research is examining if hearing aids help protect the mental functions of seniors. The study covers various venues and has enrolled approximately 1,000 adults with deafness aged 70 to 84. Hearing aids are given to one group, while ageing education is given to another. The trial should offer definite evidence on whether treating hearing issues reduces the likelihood of cognitive impairment by early 2023. In essence, we’ll see whether using hearing aids might potentially slow brain ageing and lessen the chance of dementia.
Can hearing aids reduce the risk?
Hearing aids are amplification devices that are used to address deafness. Although research on whether hearing aids help minimise cognitive decline and dementia is still evolving, preliminary findings have been positive. Correcting hearing impairment will likely reduce the risk of dementia and potentially the rate of cognitive deterioration. Hearing aids that are correctly fitted are known to lessen listening effort, enabling more cognitive resources to be accessible for other brain functions. Hearing devices can also re-stimulate brain regions that have been ignored due to hearing issues. Finally, hearing aids have been shown to increase social communication, which may help to avoid or postpone dementia. If someone feels they have deafness, they should have a hearing test and talk to an audiologist about treatment options.
Some other side effects of hearing loss
Deafness has a long-term health impact. It is thought to increase the risk of accidents and depression. It also increases healthcare costs: those with hearing impairment have a 47% greater risk of hospitalisation.
Hearing loss and dementia 2020 research
Four possible causes for the link between these conditions include:
- They are linked to an underlying illness process, such as brain injury. According to some research, hearing issues may be an early Alzheimer’s sign.
- Dementia-related brain degeneration can limit people’s cognitive capacity, compromising hearing. This might occur as an early indication of dementia or after a diagnosis.
- Hearing impairment can directly impact intelligence by making it difficult to follow and understand conversations. This may gradually damage the brain, eventually leading to dementia.
- Hearing issues can alter how the brain interprets information and limit social connections. This increases the risk of dementia since it means the brain does less work and has less “experience” handling and retaining information.
What can you do to help your elderly?
Here are a few things you can do to aid yourself or seniors in your family.
- Make an appointment for a hearing test. It never hurts to have your hearing tested to establish a baseline of your hearing. If deafness is identified, you can always take corrective steps for a doctor’s visit and proper diagnosis.
- If you wear hearing aids, keep them on at all times. It is critical to keep the brain active even in quiet conditions. To be alert and active, the brain must hear all noises, including the water running, the leaves rustling, and walking on the floor.
- Keep up with screenings and get your hearing checked every year. Hearing impairment can develop gradually, and your brain may not realise it.
- If a family member has dementia or Alzheimer’s, please be aware that many hearing solutions can enhance communication. Do contact your physician. He can guide you on several hearing technology and accessories that will best meet your loved one’s needs.
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There is mounting evidence linking these two diseases. Additionally, relevant and significant data suggest hearing issues as a modifiable risk factor for dementia. Even while deafness is mostly irreversible, therapies and devices like hearing aids can help you hear better and communicate with others conveniently.
According to an ongoing study, seniors with deafness who use hearing aids may reduce their chance of dementia. The study also discovered that hearing aids reduced the likelihood of being diagnosed with stress and anxiety.
There are definitive results that provide evidence of the effectiveness of treating hearing issues. It has been found that hearing aids have reduced the likelihood of cognitive impairment.
There is currently no evidence of dementia increasing hearing impairment; however, the opposite is likely to be accurate, where hearing impairment does bring dementia symptoms.
Hearing aids range in price from ₹ 24,990 for an essential device to ₹ 2,74,990 for a premium hearing aid.
Hearing loss causes rapid brain atrophy, which may lead to dementia. The report also implies that reducing deafness may help to lessen some of the brain health problems associated with hearing issues.