Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline (1)

Hearing loss affects an estimated 48 million people in the US alone and has far reaching side effects past obvious issues with hearing. Ultimately, hearing loss is a communication issue making it more difficult to connect to the people in your life. It can affect your personal life as well as your career, reverberating into your sense of self-worth, self-esteem and sense of independence. In addition to emotional impacts of hearing loss, struggling to hear can cause exhaustion. While we hear with our ears, we listen with our brain. When we cannot receive ample audio signals to our brain, cognitive decline can occur.

The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

Numerous studies have found a strong connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Age related hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss, affecting one in three people over 65, and half of those over 75. While cognitive decline occurs as a natural part of aging, age related hearing loss, seems to escalate cognitive decline. Similarly, rates of cognitive decline, leading to dementia increase as you reach 65 years. The Alzheimer’s society reports that “Above the age of 65, a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia doubles roughly every 5 years. It is estimated that dementia affects one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80.”

What is Dementia?

Dementia is actually a grouping of many conditions related to the loss of cognitive functioning. This condition is estimated to affect half of all people over 85 years, while the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects 62 million people in the US alone. Dementia affects thinking, remembering, reasoning and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it makes it hard to complete normal daily tasks and activities. Often people affected by dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may seem to change. Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells which interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with one another. However, several studies have found that untreated hearing loss, depending on the severity, can increase the risk of dementia significantly.

Hearing Loss Can Mimic Cognitive Decline 

Often people suspect that they are developing dementia when the symptoms of hearing loss can mimic this devastating brain disease. If you struggle to understand speech, or feel exhausted by regular conversation, you may be dealing with undiagnosed hearing loss. It’s important to check your hearing regularly to detect a hearing loss before it can develop further. Hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline which can increase the likelihood of dementia.

What Research on Dementia and Hearing Loss Reveals

A Johns Hopkins study led by Dr. Frank R. Lin  examined cognitive impairment scores in over 2000 seniors, over a six year period. The study found that patients with hearing loss had a much faster and significant decline.

Can Hearing Aids Reverse Cognitive Decline?

The answer to this is still up for debate, however, several studies suggest that there is a chance that they can. Hearing aids can amplify the sounds you struggle with, making it much easier to follow conversation in noisy and quiet environments. This can increase connections, self-esteem and slowly lift chronic depression. Hearing aids also will allow your brain to take a well-deserved break from constant straining. Some studies suggest that hearing aid can delay the onset of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Seeking Treatment

If you find that you are struggling to hear the people in your life, this is a serious issue. The sooner you address even slight signs of hearing loss, the greater chance you can delay or prevent the development of cognitive decline and dementia. Dementia destroys lives, takes away memories from its victims and currently there is no cure for this disease. It’s important to take every precaution possible to prevent it from progressing. Prompt treatment can help you or your loved one stay connected to the activities and the people they love, avoiding social isolation and loneliness, commonly associated with hearing loss and dementia. Call today to set up an appointment for a hearing test. You have too much to lose to put this off another day! 

Tips for Communicating with Hearing Loss

Tips for Communicating with Hearing Loss

With nearly one in eight people affected by hearing loss in both ears in the US, it is likely that someone you know is struggling with the condition. This could be a co-worker, a friend, a relative, or even your significant other. When people live with hearing loss, it can be a challenge to follow even a simple conversation. 

Hearing loss is considered an invisible disability, meaning that it’s not always apparent when someone is struggling to hear. You may perceive that they seem disinterested or not paying attention instead. As a result, many important relationships become strained due to unclear communication. You may stop putting as much energy into the relationship and feel distant from this individual when in actuality, they need more intentional communication strategies. Here are just a few tips to make it easier to communicate with the people in your life, so you can continue to build your relationships into the future.


Gaining attention

When someone is living with hearing loss, it can be helpful for them to be prepared to listen. This gives the listener a chance to prepare to focus on what is about to be said. Try saying the person’s name before you start talking. If appropriate, it can be helpful to touch them on the shoulder and gain eye contact before you begin.

Visual cues

Many times, people with hearing loss rely on visual cues to compensate for what they can’t hear. It can be helpful to have a few views of your face and body so they can rely on lip reading, as well as body language. This gives added context and clue towards your tone and intent to what you are saying. Make sure you are well lit and that there is nothing obscuring the listener’s view, such as hands over the mouth. Maintaining eye contact will let you know if the person is following or not. If you sense that the listener has lost focus, you can reiterate or pause and gently check-in. In addition, it’s important to avoid speaking to people with hearing loss from another room. So much can get lost when you are not sure if the person is prepared to listen and doesn’t have the visual cues that many of us with normal hearing take for granted.

Minimize background noise

One of the earliest signs of hearing loss is trouble hearing in noisy situations. Multiple conversations or deciphering speech amongst background noise can make communicating with hearing loss a nightmare. When you can, choose to meet in locations where you can control the noise environment. Turn off background music and wait to run noisy appliances till later.  Avoid meeting in public spaces during peak hours to minimize noise. However, you can’t always account for the noise of any space. If a place is unexpectedly loud and you can’t relocate, try writing out words and relying on visual cues.

Speak naturally

Often, people think that talking to someone with hearing loss effectively means they have to yell, so they can hear. The issue is that yelling can actually distort the words and the shape of your mouth. Instead, try annunciating words and speak slowly. Make sure to pause at the end of sentences and concepts to make sure they have time to fully absorb it, before moving on.

Rephrase rather than repeat

Many times, a person will ask you to repeat themselves when they have hearing loss. You can try to repeat yourself, but often it is a certain consonant or tone which is causing the hearing issue. To avoid this, try to rephrase the statement instead of repeating it. This could avoid the tones which are causing the issue, as well as adding more context to the previous statement. Sometimes you can ask what word is causing the issue, so you can just emphasize just that word.

Communicate needs

For hearing impaired individuals, it is important to express what your needs are. The first step is being honest with yourself. If someone in your life seems to have a hearing loss and is not actively treating it, it can be helpful to gently mention to them that you’ve noticed. When the people in your life are open about hearing loss, they can tell you what they need to communicate clearly. The next step is to seek treatment. Encourage them to schedule a hearing test and get on the road to more clear communication.

How Untreated Hearing Loss Interferes with Your Relationships

How Untreated Hearing Loss Interferes with Your Relationships

Hearing loss is an issue that begins in the ears but affects much more. What can begin as simple misunderstandings and having to ask the people in your life to repeat themselves, can build up over time into resentment, loneliness, anxiety and estranged relationships. While hearing loss is often irreversible it is treatable with hearing aids. These amazing devices amplify the sounds you struggle to hear so you can participate in your relationships again. It takes people five to seven years on average, after they suspect they have a problem to address the issue. In addition, of those 70 and older who could benefit from hearing aids, only one in three people, or 30 percent have ever tried them. The dangers of ignoring or choosing not to treat your hearing loss can not only impact you, but the people you care about.

Communication is Key to a Healthy Relationship

Healthy relationships are built on communication. When hearing starts to decline it often becomes difficult to stay connected to people in your life. In the instance of your partner or significant other, you may have shared years and life experience together, but even so, healthy communication is still essential. Tension builds and miscommunications become standard. Often the significant other with more hearing ability will take on the responsibility of an interpreter for the other, which can cause unhealthy codependency and resentment on both sides. However, It’s not only important conversations and logistical issues that cause stress. It’s the casual banter and inside jokes which build intimacy and help both people in a relationship feel understood. As hearing loss minimizes these interactions, feelings of closeness fade.

Communication and Professional Relationships

In the workplace hearing loss can affect your relationships as well. It is all too common to seem distracted or disinterested during conversation when it is actually that you cannot hear. It’s tempting to pretend to understand but this can add to miscommunications and failures in the workplace. However, the effects of losing your hearing in the workplace extend beyond communicating with others. Ultimately our auditory system involves the brain. When sound doesn’t reach the brain, it is forced to work overtime. This can cause cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal. These emotional impacts of hearing loss can affect your value at work, causing a huge portion of the workforce who have hearing loss a significant decline in wages when compared to people with healthy hearing or those using hearing aids. 

How Hearing Aids Improve Relationships

Treating your hearing loss with hearing aids or cochlear implants allows you to hear what you may have been missing for years. The longer you have lived with undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss, the greater the potential for a strain on your most precious relationships. The good news is you can start to rebuild them when you invest in your hearing.

Improved Communication

Everyone’s hearing loss is just a little different. This is why it’s important to have your hearing tested. We can diagnose your particular type of hearing loss and find the best hearing aids to amplify the sounds you struggle with. With hearing aids, you will be able to follow conversations and begin to reconnect to old friends as well as build new relationships. This can ultimately cause a rise in your self-esteem and sense of independence. With hearing aids you’ll feel comfortable going out more, pursuing your interests and improving your quality of life.

Increased Earning Power

Not only do hearing aids improve your relationships, but they can actually increase earning power at work! A report from The Better Hearing Institute found that not treating hearing loss can lower annual earnings by as much as $30,000. However, the study found that hearing aids minimized this risk by more than 90 percent for those with mild hearing loss! For those with moderate-to-severe hearing loss, a loss of earnings was decreased by 77%. This is just one example of how important it is to be able to communicate as clearly as possible.

Don’t Put This Off!

Maybe you suspect you have hearing loss, but you are reluctant to find out. Hearing loss is often associated with old age, causing many to put off treatment. The irony of this is, that nothing can make you seem more out of touch than struggling to hear without hearing aids. If you have put off dealing with your hearing loss for years, it will take time to heal some of the damage that has been done. The sooner you get started, the better. The first step is simple. Call and book an appointment to have your hearing tested today!