Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition, yet statistics show that only about 12% of individuals with a hearing loss choose treatment. This can lead to a variety of social, financial — and as we’re now beginning to better understand — medical complications.
Since hearing loss isn’t curable, it’s essential for us all to focus on the aspects that are treatable, so that we’re able to live life to the fullest for as long as possible. Within the last several years, a suspicion of researchers became more concrete: that there is a connection between hearing loss and dementia, but with the right type of early intervention, the effects of cognitive decline can be drastically delayed.
A connection between hearing loss and dementia?
There are a variety of ways people can experience hearing loss, the most common of which prolonged exposure to noise and the normal changes in health associated with aging. (Others can include certain infections, continuous use of ototoxic medications, and genetic complications, just to name a few.)
Up until very recently, the connections between hearing loss and other ailments went unnoticed. Or, rather, researchers were studying these diseases and health conditions separately. As researchers made more discoveries, it became more apparent that hearing loss happened less and less in isolation, and could be considered a “comorbidity.”
What is a comorbidity?
A comorbidity is a medical term that describes the presence of concurrent and related illnesses, diseases, or conditions in the body where a primary condition is augmented by at least one other related ailment.
Relatedly, the Annals of Family Medicine discovered that 80% of all money spent on Medicare was in association with patients experiencing four or more related health conditions! This relationship between health concerns can also be applied to hearing loss.
Years of study have concluded that there is a clear link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. In fact, studies show that for those with hearing loss that is considered moderate to severe, they are five times as likely to develop dementia.
Is there a way to delay the effects of dementia?
Early intervention is key. We encourage everyone above the age of 55 to undergo annual hearing screenings to truly know the state of their auditory wellness. Since the effects of hearing loss are typically gradual (much like the effects of dementia), regular checkups can go a long way in making people aware of the changes taking place in their bodies.
According to a University of Michigan study, hearing aid wearers reduced their risk of being diagnosed with dementia by nearly 20% when they took action within three years of a hearing loss being identified.
And the prevention doesn’t stop at dementia. Hearing loss and dementia have also been connected with symptoms of social isolation, such as anxiety and depression, as well as physical risks like those associated with falls, the latter of which being one of the number one health risks for adults age 65 and older.
Is an audiologist important when purchasing hearing aids?
In many ways, the relationship you have with your hearing care provider is even more important than the technology you’ve chosen to wear! Just as hearing loss is a gradual process, so is one’s adjustment to wearing technology. Many of those who choose us for their hearing care describe a feeling of being overwhelmed by sounds they didn’t even know they were missing!
Your brain interprets these sounds as new information, and processing this new information takes work on its behalf. Getting reacquainted with previously missing environmental sounds and frequencies and adjusting to the feeling of wearing hearing technology is much akin to other types of physical conditioning. It can, at times, be tiring, but the end result is always worth it.
And just like a great trainer can assist you to be in the best shape of your life, a great hearing care provider can help you experience the best possible hearing for your unique situation.
Our patients choose us — and stay in our care — not just because we offer a wide variety of the latest in hearing technology, including solutions that are smartphone-compatible, Bluetooth-enabled, and can automatically adjust to different listening environments, but because we take the time to truly understand our patients’ hearing loss and hearing wellness goals. It’s the difference between investing in an effective hearing wellness plan (one that opens up a whole host of new possibilities!) and having hearing aids that sit in a drawer.
If you suspect that you or a loved one might be experiencing a hearing loss, we’d be honored to serve you. Your brain will thank you!