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Is there a link between hearing loss and dementia?

We have a startling statistic for you today: more than a third of dementia cases can potentially be prevented or at least delayed. Exercising your brain or making some changes to your lifestyle can help in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. Addressing a hearing loss is a great place to begin!

 

Lifestyle factors

There are lots of lifestyle factors that can contribute to the development of dementia, such as, smoking, depression and not being physically active. Hearing loss is also a contributing factor but is what is known as a “modifiable risk factor” which means there is something you can do about it. Untreated hearing loss is the single most important risk factor for dementia that you are able to do something about, so it’s important to have regular hearing tests as you get older.

 

The role of the brain in hearing

Firstly, it is important to understand why the brain is so important in our hearing. When a sound enters the ear, it is transported to the brain where it is then processed. There are four fundamental functions that your brain does to help you make sense of sounds:

  • Separates sound sources
  • Recognises each sound and makes sense of them
  • Focuses on what is important
  • Works out where the sound is coming from by using both ears

All of these things happen simultaneously but if you have a hearing loss, it is very difficult for the brain to process the sound.

 

Exercise your brain!

We hear an awful lot in the media and on the internet about how important it is to exercise our bodies and to keep fit; unfortunately it is much less advertised that we need to exercise our brains and keep them active too! You need to exercise your brain to keep it working well and to keep any cognitive deterioration at bay. The good news is that there are so many ways you can exercise your brain. You can do puzzles such as crosswords or jigsaws or even help your grandchildren with their maths homework! Unfortunately if you already have a hearing loss that you’ve not addressed, this kind of brain exercise won’t be enough to keep your brain healthy. Here are just 3 examples of how a hearing loss leads to an increased risk of dementia:

  • Hearing loss inevitably leads to social isolation if left untreated. This results in a lack of brain stimulation as you aren’t interacting with others as often as you should be.
  • The strain that hearing loss puts on your brain can “steal” the energy that is required to create memories.
  • Hearing loss can accelerate brain shrinkage.

It is thought that by simply treating hearing loss, this is the most effective way to reduce the risk of developing dementia. If you believe you are suffering with a hearing loss, it is so important to get an important with a local Audiologist and start treatment, such as hearing aids, as soon as possible. We offer hearing consultations in the comfort of your own home and will advise you of the best course of action for your individual hearing loss.

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