Seek Early Intervention for Hearing Loss to Prevent Cognitive Decline
Researchers and medical professionals continue searching for answers about the increasing rates of dementia and cognitive decline. While the exact cause can’t be pinpointed, evidence suggests a connection between hearing loss and the development of cognitive decline in older adults.
At this point, the possible link between hearing loss treatments and slowing the progression of cognitive decline still needs additional testing and research. However early reports indicate that treating hearing loss might be an effective step, especially for patients with an increased risk of dementia.
Recent Research: Slowing Cognitive Decline with Hearing Loss Treatment
In a recent study funded by an NIH research team, Dr. Frank Lin tracked 1,000 adults between the ages of 70 and 84 with significant hearing loss. In this clinical trial, the team from Johns Hopkins University monitored these people over the course of three years to compare cognitive decline among those who did or did not receive hearing aids.
A variety of tests were used at the beginning of the 3-year period to determine the participant’s cognitive functioning. Then, these tests were repeated annually for the next 3 years.
The results showed that people with hearing aids showed noticeable improvements in communication abilities. The results were particularly noted among patients who had a higher risk of dementia due to heart health issues. Patients in this group who received hearing aids experienced a nearly 50% reduction in cognitive decline compared to other people in this same group.
Understanding Dementia – And How Hearing is Connected
Dementia can refer to various types of cognitive decline and might include a variety of symptoms such as disorientation, language challenges, memory loss, and behavioral or mood issues.
When a person has hearing loss, it is believed that there is a higher cognitive load placed on the brain, which might contribute to the development of dementia. The brain must work harder as the person is trying to adapt to the loss of hearing. Over time, the increased cognitive load results in changes within the brain, including decreased connections between the regions in the brain and a reduction in brain volume.
It’s also been found that hearing loss often contributes to social isolation, which is a factor that can increase the risk of dementia. For example, if a person has hearing loss, then it is more challenging to understand conversations in social settings. So, it can increase the likelihood that a person will withdraw from social situations – and they are missing the way the brain is stimulated through social interactions. As a result, the lack of social stimulation can be a factor that contributes to dementia development.
How Hearing Treatments Can Help with a Lower Risk of Dementia
If a person has hearing loss, then treating these issues could have a positive impact on reducing the risk of dementia. Of course, there are other lifestyle factors that can also play a role in dementia. But hearing loss is one thing that is within your control and could help with lowering the likelihood of cognitive decline.
The use of hearing aids is one of the most common treatments for hearing loss. Hearing aids support the brain in processing sounds and conversation which can reduce the cognitive load being placed on the brain throughout the day. At the same time, people who use hearing aids tend to have better communication, which can improve social interactions and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Researchers have found that people who have hearing loss can improve their overall cognitive function by wearing hearing aids regularly. It is a simple thing that can make a big difference, especially in the future.
Early Intervention is Key
When it comes to treating hearing loss, the key is to diagnose the hearing issues in the earliest stages in order to reduce the risk of dementia in the future. If you notice any signs of hearing loss in yourself or a loved one, then the best solution is to schedule a hearing test to get an accurate diagnosis.
Even if the hearing loss symptoms are mild, it’s essential to seek treatment without delay. Fast and accurate hearing loss treatment can delay the development of cognitive disorders, including dementia.
The risk of dementia and cognitive decline is the highest in older adults. But, early lifestyle changes can have compounding effects to improve overall health and decrease the risk of serious conditions in the future. So, regardless of your age, the best solution is to take a proactive approach with your health, including regular hearing tests as needed.
Signs of Hearing Loss: How to Tell If You Need a Hearing Test
If you are wondering whether you need a hearing test, then the safest answer is to schedule one. There’s no harm in having your hearing tested! It’s a painless way to evaluate your hearing and ear health.
Always schedule a hearing test if you notice any signs of hearing loss in yourself or a loved one:
- Difficulty understanding speech
- Having a hard time hearing words, especially in noisy or crowded environments
- Muffled speech
- Difficulty hearing consonant letters in the alphabet
- Always turning up the volume on the radio or TV
- Asking others to repeat themselves or speak louder
- Background noise is bothersome
- Avoiding social settings
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
If you have a sudden loss of hearing, then it’s essential to seek medical attention without delay. But often hearing loss occurs gradually, so you might not notice the change in your hearing over time.
Do You Need Hearing Aids?
The good news is that modern developments in technology make it easier than ever to treat hearing loss. If your hearing is impaired, then small devices can be used to amplify the sounds and minimize your cognitive load. Not only will the use of hearing aids improve your daily lifestyle, but these devices can also have a positive impact on slowing cognitive decline – especially among older adults.
If you need to schedule a hearing test or you would like more information about hearing aids, then you are invited to contact our expert team at your convenience. Fairfax Hearing Center is here to help patients of all ages.