The link between hearing loss and dementia

The link between hearing loss and dementia

The link between hearing loss and dementia

The link between hearing loss and the risk of dementia is well documented. People who lose their hearing are more likely to develop dementia than those who retain their hearing. (Source: 18 year study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging Research, USA)

What is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of progressive conditions that affect the brain. Symptoms include a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. This term is often interchanged with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause of dementia [according to the Alzheimer’s Society]. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine the exact causes of dementia and there is no current cure. Dementia can affect a person at any age but it is more commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 65 years. 

Is there a link between dementia and hearing loss?

Hearing loss due to ageing is known as presbycusis and is more common in people over the age of 60 years old.  Hearing loss can seriously impact the brain and mental health, which in turn can contribute to dementia. It is often hard to separate the signs of hearing loss from those of dementia.  Often one condition can mask the other. 

Research suggests that people with mild symptoms of hearing loss may be twice as likely to develop dementia as those with healthy hearing. People with severe hearing loss may be five times more likely to develop dementia. This is because having hearing loss can lead to social isolation and loss of independence which accelerates cognitive decline.

However, it is important to remember, that hearing loss is only a risk factor. Having any form of hearing loss does not mean that a person will develop dementia.

Other factors that affect the risk of dementia are:

  • Low mental stimulation
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Genetics
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake

Strategies to help reduce the risk of developing dementia

  • If you are over 60, have annual hearing checks and if needed, it is worth investing in wearing hearing aids to improve your hearing loss. Those who use hearing aids are less at risk of developing dementia. They tend to be more social and their brains are better stimulated. With good hearing it is easier to partake in social interactions and enjoy problem-solving activities.
  • Reducing background noise and distractions can help to improve communication. You can also use gestures and expressions as well as let people see your face when you are talking.
  • Improve your health and wellbeing with regular exercise, social activities and eating a healthy diet. It’s important as we age to stay physically, mentally and socially active. 

If you would like more information or would like to book a hearing test, please get in touch.  We are happy to talk through options to help you. Please call Ray or Marianne Jones at Independent Hearing Services on 01202 861522 or contact us here.

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