By: Dr. Keith Darrow, PhD, CCC-A

Simply put, the brain can benefit greatly by being proactive in taking care of your hearing loss as you age. In fact, studies have shown that by treating your hearing loss, you can slow down the degenerative disease of dementia by up to 75%. And a recent article from the Journal of the American Medical Association (December 2022) found that treating hearing loss can reduce the risk of dementia by nearly 20%!

Therefore, I am of the belief that it is critical as you age to treat your hearing loss and, ultimately, keep cognitive decline at bay.

So, what is the correlation between treating your hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia?

It is well known that social isolation is a part of hearing loss. Those who suffer from it tend to isolate themselves from social gatherings and events to ease the pain of embarrassment when they cannot fully hear or respond to conversations.

In addition, sensory stimulation, or the loss or stimulation to the brain, can also lead to cognitive decline over time. In other words, when your senses are not adequately triggering activity to your brain, researchers have speculated that this decrease in stimulation can be detrimental to the brain, leading to the symptoms and suffering of dementia. Both untreated hearing loss and visual loss can significantly increase the risk of cognitive decline.

When you treat your hearing loss, quite simply, you hear better. And improved hearing can improve memory, decision-making skills, and increase your processing speed. The connection between treating hearing loss and cognitive health, therefore, is a huge one!

 Why You MUST Treat Your Hearing Loss!

Unfortunately, too many people living with hearing loss do nothing about it. And there are many reasons for that.

·     Price. While many believe that PRICE is the reason for so many people doing nothing about their hearing loss, unfortunately the data does not back this up. In countries with socialized medicine, where treating hearing loss (and hearing aids!) are often free, most people still opt out of treatment.

·     Quick fix. Perhaps this is just a symptom of our desire to have a ‘quick fix’ for every problem, but given that most people have hearing loss for 8-10 years before they start treatment, it is not realistic to believe that ‘fixing’ hearing loss can happen overnight. It is very important that patients understand that the brain will take time to adapt and that it can take 30-60 days to go from hearing good… to hearing great again

·     Comfort. Let’s be honest here – putting something on (or in) your ears after 60-70 years of not having something in your ears can be difficult at first. Fortunately, today’s technology, unlike the ‘beige bananas’ of the past are so comfortable and invisible, nearly 99% of patients report not even noticing they are wearing something. And if there is an issue, it can be fixed by your hearing health care provider.

·     What’s that sound? At first, hearing voices, creaking floors, and flushing toilets, can be a bit of a shock to the system. But what is even more of a shock, is when you can go back to your favorite restaurant and don’t say ‘what’ or ‘huh’ again! Your brain, no matter your age, will adapt quickly and you will learn to love all these sounds again.

Please remember that untreated hearing loss may significantly increase your risk of cognitive decline dementia, and can directly impact your social, emotional, physical and cognitive health. Considering all the new research, we now know that taking care of your hearing loss is a huge defense towards slowing decline. Please, take treatment seriously.

Until next time, I remain your partner in healthy hearing and the fight against cognitive decline and dementia.

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