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Hearing Loss and Dementia

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Gradual hearing loss is a common symptom of aging, and studies show that people with untreated hearing loss report more concerns about their memory than people with normal hearing. But, more worryingly, for some people untreated hearing loss may also be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, studies suggest.

The 2020 Report of the Lancet Commission, Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care shows that hearing loss is the biggest risk factor that you can influence against dementia.

The risk of dementia appears to rise as hearing declines, and older people with mild hearing loss who typically find it hard to follow a conversation in a noisy restaurant, are twice as likely as those with normal hearing to develop dementia.

  • Mild hearing loss doubles the risk of dementia
  • Moderate hearing loss triples the risk of dementia
  • Severe hearing loss increases the risk of dementia five fold

Hearing loss leads to social isolation, which itself has been linked to dementia, and added to this, by stimulating the brain less with sounds to interpret, the brain can become less active and cognitive.

“The brain might have to reallocate resources to help with hearing at the expense of cognition” says a lead researcher and ear surgeon, Frank R Lin, at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA. “That could explain why straining to hear conversations over background noise in a loud restaurant can be mentally exhausting for anyone, hard of hearing or not,” he adds.

How to reduce the risk of dementia

The Lancet study recommends the use of hearing aids in those with hearing loss, as a way of protecting against cognitive decline, and keeping the brain actively engaged day by day.

Sadly, if all hearing loss was treated, nearly 1 in 10 cases of dementia could be wiped out.

For patients living with dementia

Hearing loss should never be ignored for patients living with dementia, as living with both conditions presents additional challenges. Both conditions can have an impact on how someone copes day to day, making it harder for them to communicate and for those around them to communicate with them. Hearing loss can also contribute to their disorientation and make their living environment less safe by not hearing alarms, running taps and so on. For people affected by dementia, hearing aids are recommended to improve their quality of life and make communication easier.

How we helped dementia sufferer, Nimmo and her carer Gosha

Luckily for dementia sufferer, 82 year old Nimmo Nathaniel, her loyal carer Gosha, was instrumental in urging Nimmo to have a home hearing test with Hearfocus, after recognising how her hearing loss was having such an impact on Nimmo’s everyday life.

Our Hearing Aid Audiologist, Phil Cornwell visited Nimmo in her home and conducted the hearing test where he found significant hearing loss. Once the hearing aids were ordered and fitted, Nimmo, her family and Gosha have been overwhelmed with the difference the aids have made. Gosha has continued to assist Nimmo in maintaining her new hearing aids and Nimmo and her family would like to thank Gosha for the care she’s given in organising the test.

Help is at hand

Having regular hearing checks and making the most of the help available in the form of hearing aids is advisable, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. Take advantage of having support from a friend or family member at your hearing test, to help with any questions that might cause difficulty, and to have a familiar voice for speech recognition.

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