Most of us know someone who has hearing loss. Maybe even you. Many people still deny the reality while others have purchased new hearing aids. What you probably don’t know is that hearing loss may increase your risk of dementia. Let’s find out why and what you can do about it.
Coincidence Or Link?
Will hearing loss increase your risk for dementia? Is there a real link? There is definitely a risk factor involved. Scientists have found that the worse a senior’s hearing is impaired, it increases the chance they will develop dementia.
A twelve year study at John Hopkins Hospital of 639 adults found that adults with mild hearing loss doubled their risk of dementia. Moderate hearing loss tripled the risk, and adults with severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop dementia.
Many consider this a coincidence simply because age related hearing loss is the 3rd most chronic condition. Two-thirds of Americans over the age of seventy have hearing loss. At the same time, it is believed that hearing loss contributes to walking problems and falls; another senior issue.
Now The Why
How do researchers determine the cognitive risk factors and why do they think there is a link?
- Hearing loss makes the brain work harder. You strain to hear and fill in the gaps of what you missed at the expense of other types of thinking and your memory.
- Those with hearing loss are less engaged. Many withdraw from conversation and participate less in other activities.
- When there is no brain stimulation, the brain declines. Social engagement is critical for brain health. In addition, hearing nerves will send fewer signals to the brain
- With a declining brain, thinking and problem solving are affected.
How To Mitigate The Declining Brain
Even if you don’t have hearing loss, there are several essential things to keep your brain healthy.
Stay In Touch
Find mutually enjoyable activities with friends and relatives and maintain a schedule. Join a senior bowling league, play cards, keep reading, and look for a new hobby you find fun.
Hearing aids are a no brainer if you have a hearing loss no matter how mild. If you care for an older relative, make this a priority.
Try to exercise daily. Join a water aerobics group. Even regular walking will keep your brain active.
Being a senior does not automatically mean your brain has to decline. Do everything you can to stay involved with friends, be active in your church, and remember you still have much to share with younger folks so avoid isolation.