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The link between Hearing Loss and Dementia

The link between hearing loss and dementia

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If, like some of my patients who called this week, you tuned into BBC Breakfast on Sunday and watched the segment discussing the link between Hearing Loss and Dementia, you could be looking for more answers. We’ll here you are…

The news piece has stemmed from recent papers published by some major universities including Cambridge, Oxford and also Harvard in the USA which has proven the link between untreated hearing loss and the increased risk of developing dementia in later life.

 
A PERSONAL IMPACT OF DEMENTIA

Dementia is an awful disease. My Auntie has recently been diagnosed with an acute strain of Alzheimer’s Disease and it’s been difficult to watch her decline so quickly in a relatively short period of time. Despite the medication she’s receiving, she will continue to spiral further away from us and eventually forget us, and many other things, altogether.

So, did hearing loss cause her Alzheimer’s?

No, absolutely not. At 65 her hearing is still in good condition. Dementia can be caused by a whole host of reasons…but not looking after your hearing is a big one, accounting for 9% of the overall risk according to a study from Lancet.

According to one NHS paper, the risk of developing dementia in later life almost doubles if you have even a mild hearing loss which you leave untreated.

HOW MUCH DOES THE RISK OF DEMENTIA INCREASE BY?

The risk triples if you have a moderate hearing loss and increases by x5 if you have a severe hearing loss.

So, if it’s this clear why don’t people do something about it? Well the main reason is that many people just do not know they have a hearing loss to begin with, let alone to what level.

You go to the dentist every 6 months to have your teeth checked…

You go to the opticians every 2 years to have your eyes checked…

Heck, you even go to the garage once a year to have your car checked…

But how many of you have never had your hearing checked? I’ll tell you…a lot! I speak to people every week who haven’t been tested in 20, 30, 40 years and sometimes never at all.

If you’re under 50, you should get a hearing test every 5 years. Over 50 this should increase slightly to 3 years. Over 60 it’s every 2 years and by the time you are 70 years young you should have it checked annually.

THE LINK BETWEEN DEMENTIA AND HEARING LOSS

So, what is the link between hearing loss and dementia? Research now shows that hearing loss leads to changes in the brain, specifically in the areas responsible for processing sound and speech. These changes can then affect cognitive function, leading to an increased risk of developing dementia.

It is also clear that hearing loss contributes to social isolation and depression, which are known risk factors for dementia. People with hearing loss often struggle to engage in social activities, leading to a lack of stimulation and interaction, which can have a negative impact on cognitive function.

SIMPLE STEPS TO REDUCE THE RISK

The good news is that hearing loss is a treatable condition, and early intervention can help to prevent many of these risks. Hearing aids are a common and effective treatment for hearing loss, and many people find that they improve their overall quality of life. Earwax can be another. Believe it or not, many people I see have had blocked ears for months or even years before dealing with it. This is usually as it’s happened gradually so it’s not been as obvious to the individual, though this type of hearing loss can be fixed with ease.

If you want to check yourself or your family, please get in touch. In every James David Hearing Care appointment, we remove any earwax obstructing your hearing, then check the physical health of your ears through a digital Otoscopy examination (we can even show you footage of inside your own ears so you can see what we do), finally we’ll finish by testing your hearing.

I hope this answers some of your questions, and if you still have more then give us a call.

David

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