An Audiologists Perspective
Have you seen the viral TikTok that asks healthcare professionals to name one thing they wish the general public knew about their specialty? My response would mimic nickstaaa’s: “Untreated hearing loss will give you dementia.” Now, although a direct link between hearing loss and dementia hasn’t been identified, I have outlined a few elements that may contribute to this correlation.
At the end of December 2021, the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease was updated to include hearing loss as a risk factor for dementia. This change did not come as a shock to us at Sonora Hearing Care, LLC, who were already familiar with the connection between auditory processing and cognition.
Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Connection?
Although a direct link between hearing loss and dementia hasn’t been identified, three elements that contribute are as follows:
- Brain Shrinkage – Untreated hearing loss deprives the brain of important sensory information. Without this information, the “hearing” portion of the brain shrinks, altering the structure of the brain.
- Cognitive Overdrive – When the auditory system is failing, the visual system must work harder to compensate. Lip reading becomes the primary resource for communication. This increased cognitive load takes a toll on brain function.
- Social Isolation – People with untreated hearing loss may feel isolated from their peers since they can no longer listen and respond as easily as they could before. This feeling of separation causes them to socialize less, leading to mental decline.
What Do Audiologists At Sonora Hearing Care Recommend?
Audiologists are often the first medical professionals to notice changes in elderly patients’ cognition. Forgetting to change batteries? Putting hearing aids in the wrong ear? If a patient is struggling to understand speech, especially in background noise, or is experiencing issues with working memory and executive function, an audiologist may perform a quick cognitive screening test, complete a hearing test, verify the hearing aids are working appropriately, discuss findings, and suggest more formal testing, if needed.
An audiologist who identifies hearing loss will recommend hearing aids as a first line of defense. A small study found that wearing hearing aids “may reverse compensatory changes in cortical resource allocation,” meaning that hearing aids effectively save the brain from declining by reintroducing the missing sensory input. Constant hearing aid use may even stop or slow brain shrinkage.
What Should I Do?
If you are experiencing hearing loss or memory problems, reach out to Sonora Hearing Care, LLC as soon as possible. Though hearing loss may seem easy to ignore at first, your brain may already be suffering from a lack of auditory stimuli. In fact, if you wait too long, your brain will lose the ability to discriminate speech, and hearing aids will not be able to rectify that issue.
It is time to take our advice! Recognize and understand the underlying effects of hearing loss. Take control of your hearing; your brain health and overall quality of life depends on it.