Did you know that November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month? In 1983, President Ronald Reagan wanted to shed light on this devastating disease, which at the time affect 2 million people. That number has since grown to over 5 million people affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Here at Hearing Consultants, our commitment to hearing health means that we want to bring awareness to the link between untreated hearing loss and a potential risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies on Hearing Loss and Cognitive Abilities
A striking connection has been discovered between hearing loss and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Frank Lin and his fellow researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered two important findings regarding this connection. In the first case, they have found that hearing loss and dementia are statistically linked, with those who have an untreated hearing loss more likely to experience diminished cognitive abilities, which opens up the risk for dementia. In another study, they also found a link between the rate of decline for those who have both dementia and hearing loss. In other words, those who had hearing loss along with dementia experienced a faster decline in their cognitive ability.
It is important to note that hearing loss affects two-thirds of people over the age of 65 and is a natural occurrence with aging. Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is common and treatable. On the other hand, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (which makes up 60% to 80% of dementia cases) are not natural conditions when it comes to aging. Among the risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s, two stand out to us: untreated hearing loss and social isolation.
The Effects of Hearing Loss on Your Social Life
Take a moment to think back to the last time you were at a large social gathering for the holidays. Perhaps it was a public event such as a concert, play, or movie. You might be thinking of a family party where everyone converged at the end of the year to catch up and revisit memories from past holidays. You might even be thinking of the experience of shopping for gifts in a crowded locale, such as a shopping mall or city commercial district. Now ask yourself: how important was my hearing in that instance?
With few exceptions, you will agree that hearing is crucial to your ability to take part in a social gathering around the holidays. Even at small events, such as a gathering of immediate family members, the ability to have a conversation relies on the ability to hear what others are saying. Without that ability, the puzzle falls to pieces, and you are left feeling alone within the crowd. You might even recall holidays past when you were able to easily relate with your family members and closest friends. Without the ability to hear properly in a conversation, that connection can be lost.
One of the most common signs of untreated hearing loss is social isolation. As we know, hearing loss can be an isolating experience. Those who struggle to understand what others have to say may find themselves increasingly reticent to engage in social events, parties, and family gatherings. Even if they do attend, they may prefer to keep quiet and let others do the talking. Any attempt at communication may be met with frustration, anger, or embarrassment. Some will feel that they are not able to connect with even their closest loved ones. All of this can accumulate to the experience of social isolation. Either desiring to stay home during social events or avoiding communication while attending them, people with hearing loss may find themselves isolated from others.
This social isolation may hold a key to understanding the link with dementia. We know that communication is key to keeping the cognitive process freely flowing and open to new information.
Treating Hearing Loss
This holiday season, take the opportunity to give a priceless gift to your family by seeking hearing loss treatment. If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing abilities, it is important to contact us at Hearing Consultants. Just imagine how much more enjoyable these holiday gatherings can be when you feel connected to the sounds around you! Contact us today to schedule a consultation.