Discovery of the link between brain health (Dementia / Alzheimer’s) and hearing loss was recently publicised on the BBC and ABC. The articles showed there is considerable risk of dementia developing if midlife hearing loss is left untreated. One in six Australians experience hearing loss which can start at any time in life but, is more often in older adults including about one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 years old. Nearly 50% of those aged over 75 have difficulty hearing so we’re talking about a large proportion of the population.
The highly prestigious medical journal The Lancet recently commissioned a study looking into dementia risk factors. This study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London in July this year.
The study split the causes for dementia into those with non-modifiable and potentially modifiable risk factors so it was clear what risks we could do something about. Of the modifiable risk factors, the study showed midlife hearing loss to be the highest risk contributing towards dementia – 9%.
What do the Mac Hearing Experts say?
“Hearing loss can lead to social isolation.” says Mac Hearing Audiologist Claire Crichton. “People withdraw from social activities, going places with their families and into more challenging listening environments. That can prevent the brain from functioning well and stimulating the brain.”
“We all have this innate understanding of the rules of language that enable us to ‘get by’ with hearing loss as it gradually deteriorates,” continues Audiologist Phillippa Hunt, “but you can only take this to a certain level. After that, once background noise starts getting in the way. You’re so busy trying to fill in the gaps retrospectively that you just become lost… “
Audiologist Merren Davies agrees. “Someone may be very sociable, loves to go out but, as their hearing loss progresses they withdraw socially because it becomes too difficult. They can’t follow dialogue, they get the wrong end of the stick and because of that embarrassment, they start to withdraw.”
How can Hearing Loss affect Dementia?
Isolation reduces brain activity and can often bring on depression. Both these connotations can contribute to the onset of Dementia.
The authors of the study comment that acting to reduce your risk of the factors isn’t a guarantee to prevent dementia but say it may help.
By getting your hearing tested on a regular basis with a qualified audiologist you can keep track of any problems and add early preventative measures if needed. Dementia aside, maintaining hearing can add a quality of life you might miss if your hearing is left untended.
Interested in a hearing test? Contact Mac Hearing clinic for an appointment. We are fully independent so can advise if hearing support is needed and what will best fit your requirements /budget.
Interested in reading the study on the connection between Dementia and Hearing Loss? Click here to request the Lancet study including your email address and we can send you a copy.