Hearing Loss and Dementia

Dementia affects over 55 million people worldwide, with almost 10 million new cases reported every year. What many don’t know is that there’s a clear link between hearing loss and dementia.

Learn About the Importance of Good Hearing for Brain Function

In a study of 639 adults conducted over 12 years by a team of experts at John Hopkins University, researchers found that even mild untreated hearing loss doubles the risk of dementia. The link between deafness and dementia deepens as hearing loss becomes worse, especially if left untreated Those with moderate hearing loss face three times the risk of developing dementia, while those with severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop the condition.

Why does this happen?

According to Dr. Frank Lin of John Hopkins University, “Brain scans show us that the effect of hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain.” Dr. Lin’s team of researchers points out that hearing loss limits a person’s ability to converse and may result in social isolation, which are factors that may contribute to dementia.

Dr. Lin goes on to highlight that the brain of a hearing-impaired person has to work much harder to pick up on the subtle signals that aid in balance and brain development. This leads to subconscious multitasking that affects everything from brain development to the ability to walk safely.

The science is clear – there is a established link between hearing loss and dementia. If you experience hearing loss, your risk of developing dementia increases enormously. Though this is unfortunate news, understanding the link between deafness and dementia means you’re in a position to do something about it.

Impairment and Dementia: What You Can Do

Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to decrease the risk of developing dementia if you experience hearing loss:

  • Accept that you experience challenges with your hearing and seek help. According to John Hopkins University, the average hearing aid user waits 10 years before seeking treatment. Those 10 years can make a huge difference when it comes to hearing loss and dementia.
  • Understand that hearing aids are exactly what they say they are – aids. They are not a sign that you’re getting older and they’re designed to be as subtle as possible.
  • According to a 2020 report published in The Lancet, several lifestyle factors beyond hearing impairment increase the risk of dementia developing. These include smoking, lack of physical activity, depression, and obesity. Taking steps to confront these challenges, if you face them, decreases your overall risk factors.
  • Keeping your brain engaged is one of the keys to reducing dementia risk. Engage in conversations, play games, and solve puzzles. Challenge yourself regularly to learn new things and enjoy new experiences.

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