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Why are People with Hearing Loss More Prone to Dementia?
According to major studies, older adults who experience hearing loss have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Indeed, men with hearing loss are up to 69% more likely to experience dementia, compared to those with normal hearing abilities. The risks of hearing loss are, unfortunately, twice as high for the male population than female, which can lead to the wrong conclusion that hearing loss dementia tends not to affect women. In reality, the connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease is significant for both genders.
What are the exact figures that link hearing and dementia?
- People with mild hearing loss are twice more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing.
- For every 10 decibels increase in hearing loss, the risk for dementia jumps by 20%.
- Due to natural hearing degradation in old age, seniors are over a third more exposed to dementia as a result of hearing loss than the population under 60.
But what exactly makes hearing loss a high-risk factor for dementia?
Hearing loss can be confused with symptoms of dementia. It is essential to clarify that, while hearing loss and dementia are two different conditions, they can share similar traits. As a result, it isn’t uncommon to misdiagnose one for the other. You need an audiologist to run a hearing test before deciding that your elderly relative exhibits all the signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Here’s why it matters:
Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia. However, someone who experiences hearing loss can’t remember what has been said because they couldn’t hear it properly.
Someone who appears to have difficulties thinking clearly or making decisions may also be trying to process information and fill the gap between the words they couldn’t hear. Declining communication abilities are a telltale sign of dementia. But they can also be the result of hearing loss, which affects your communication skills.
Frequent misunderstandings highlight cognitive issues, which is indicative of Alzheimer’s. But someone who experiences moderate or severe hearing loss is likely to misunderstand facts and conversations as a result of missing out on some sounds.
Hearing loss causes isolation
Without the appropriate diagnosis and correction, hearing loss can be an isolating experience that cuts you from social contact. Adults who experience hearing loss but fail to correct the issue are likely to be lonely in their professional and social life as a result. Loneliness, unfortunately, increases your risk of developing dementia by up to 40%.
While it is hard to pinpoint an exact reason as to why loneliness affects the rise of dementia, there are several points to consider:
- Hearing loss makes you feel uncomfortable in social situations, which forces you to avoid meeting people. As a result, you spend more time alone, which can reduce your ability to interact with others.
- Hearing loss can force you to avoid many situations for fear of social awkwardness and discomfort, which can, in the long term, make you forget how to think or perform everyday tasks.
- Isolation makes you more vulnerable to depression, which is a facilitating factor for dementia.
Underlying conditions can cause hearing loss
Hearing loss can be the result of other health issues. People with type two diabetes, for instance, are more likely to experience hearing degradation as a result of vascular damage. Indeed, the auditory nerves in your ear rely on blood flow to keep their oxygen levels constant. However, diabetes can reduce blood flow and increase the risk of damage to tissues as a result of high sugar in the blood. Therefore, type two diabetes can put you at risk of developing hearing loss.
Similarly, it would be foolish to assume that vascular damages caused by diabetes are limited to your ears. The brain can equally be affected, leading to vascular dementia, which happens when the blood flow to the brain is reduced or partially blocked. It is teamwork between your audiologist and your physicist to tackle the effect of blood sugar control on your health.
Uncorrected hearing loss decreases cognitive activity
Without an audiologist to help you find the appropriate correction for your hearing loss, you don’t only isolate yourself, but you also lower your cognitive activities. As the brain receives less information, it can’t maintain its mental agility. Unfortunately, without correction, you can’t keep your communication skills when you have hearing loss. Without communication, the brain can’t stay fit and keep dementia at bay.
If you want to find out more about the link between hearing loss and dementia, or if you worry that your elderly relative has been misdiagnosed with dementia for a hearing loss problem, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team at the Audiology and Hearing Aid Center. You can book an appointment by calling 920-969-1768.