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The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss

Updated: May 31, 2023


Doctor checking woman's ear with otoscope.

Is there an older adult in your family who tends to turn up the volume on the TV much too loud for everyone else? Do you notice that they may be having difficulty hearing you when you are speaking in a normal conversational tone?


It is not uncommon for older adults to experience a level of hearing loss at a later stage in life. However, it may be a foreshadowing issue that has been linked to a much more serious problem – dementia. There have been many studies that have shown that there is a connection between age-related hearing loss and dementia. Unfortunately, more often than not, aging adults can be completely unaware of their hearing difficulties. If you notice your loved one may be experiencing some difficulty hearing, then it is time to consider scheduling a regular check-up with an audiologist who can help assess the situation and give you tips on how to proceed. Now, let’s discuss the connections between age-related hearing loss and cognitive decline relating to dementia.


There is a connection between hearing loss and brain function – Recent studies show hearing loss may be one of the biggest factors that contribute to cognitive decline in the elderly. When a senior goes on living day-to-day with a decline in hearing, the brain begins to lose its ability to gauge social situations which has been shown to promote brain atrophy – or loss of neurons and the connections between them. The aging adults that have started dealing with hearing loss, or impaired hearing, should be aware that they have a higher chance of developing dementia at a later stage in life.


The second connection is between the brain’s function and social isolation – Since the loss of hearing can make the brain work harder, it may become challenging for these seniors to interact with another person. This can lead to social isolation. Seniors may feel the need to retreat when faced with the task of conversing with someone that approaches them on the street, calls them on the phone or visits their home. Since communication is essential to living, older adults may become frustrated over the fact that their hearing loss impacts everyday conversations. When they are less socially engaged, it leads to being less intellectually stimulated.


Finally, the last connection is between social isolation and hearing loss – The loss of social interaction can even further the issue of impaired hearing. Unknowingly to seniors, hearing loss can create a toxic environment of isolation which will inevitably worsen their symptoms of hearing loss. This is why it is up to you to make them feel included, even though sometimes that may feel challenging due to their level of hearing loss. Talk to them and help them understand. It is one of the best ways to help them maintain their mental health.


As you can see, it is a full circle; one thing affects the other until the circle is complete. Hearing loss may be the catalyst of many age-related challenges from isolation, poor mental health and even cognitive dysfunction. If you want to ensure that your loved one in your life enjoys their full mental capacity, then invest some time to talk to them, make them feel included, and use verbal and non-verbal communication. Plus, you can speak with a healthcare professional, such as an audiologist, about getting a custom-fit hearing aid. Once they hear the difference, they will be eternally grateful to you for helping them to be their healthiest selves!

 

If you want to read more articles about senior living: click here! Or, find new healthy recipes: here!


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