Studies have shown that at least 2/3 of adults age 70+ have hearing loss in America, yet only about 16% of these individuals utilize hearing aids. At the same time, according to Alzheimers.net, by the year 2025, 7.1 million people will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
We depend on the research to determine what we can do to protect ourselves from this devastating disease. Researchers often talk about lifestyle changes which may decrease the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, such as exercise, stopping smoking, living a cognitively stimulating lifestyle, good social connections, and a healthy diet. Most of these changes, to be effective, must begin in early life. Many seniors want to know if there is anything they can do now to help themselves avoid cognitive decline!
Less information is currently circulating discussing the link between hearing loss and dementia. This is a change that can be made later in life. Recent studies by Lin and Deal Et Al have shown a correlative connection in untreated hearing loss and the increased onset of dementia. Studies have also found that individuals perform better on cognitive tasks once they have been successfully fitted with appropriate hearing aids.
Despite these findings, many individuals balk at hearing aids. Common complaints include that they are expensive and often difficult to get accustomed to. That is why it is important to not simply go to a hearing aid dealer, but to an audiologist who will work with you through counseling and training, and who will make the needed adjustments necessary for you to get the most benefit out of your aids. Getting your hearing loss treated will not cure Alzheimer’s, but it will help reduce the cognitive load required just to hear the message, and free up those cognitive areas to interpret, remember, and analyze what you are hearing.
People with hearing loss report feeling more socially isolated. Social isolation, as well as untreated hearing loss, both have negative impacts on cognition. When we can hear and participate, we are better able to benefit from social engagement! If you are concerned about cognitive change later in life and you have hearing loss, getting this addressed can provide immediate positive results. This will improve your ability to participate in life and focus on information you’re hearing, and thereby help protect your cognitive health.
For more information about the links between hearing loss, social isolation and dementia:
Written By: Melanie Cahill, MS - Engagement Program Coordinator at CAB
Melanie facilities our EMBRACE program - Do you struggle with isolation, lack of cognitive stimulation, or dementia? EMBRACE could be right for you. Everyone needs purpose and meaning in their life. By recognizing this fundamental need, EMBRACE is designed to help our clients engage in life.