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! 

How Treating Hearing Loss Helps Your Mental Health

How Treating Hearing Loss Helps Your Mental Health

Do you have hearing loss? You know that hearing loss makes it harder to hear all the sounds around you, making you miss a lot of the sounds in your environment. You don’t hear the chirping of birds, you can’t hear someone calling to you from another room, and you have a hard time knowing where a sound is coming from.

Hearing loss also makes it difficult to communicate. You’ve noticed that hearing loss makes you more stressed and anxious as you struggle to follow conversations. Hearing loss can even make you feel isolated, lonely, and depressed! If you’ve been dealing with poor mental health, treating hearing loss is one of the best things you can do to connect with loved ones and improve your quality of life. 

Hearing Loss and Mental Health

Did you know that your hearing loss and mental health are closely linked? A new study by Clear Living, a lifestyle website, looks at how hearing loss can impact your mental health and wellbeing. During 2019 and 2020, researchers gathered data from website users. They asked users to fill out a survey, and they got 3,700 responses. The questions were all about how hearing loss affects personal and social wellbeing and mental health.

After looking at all the data, researchers discovered that 89% of the study participants dealt with personal and social issues because of their hearing loss. These older adults responded that they felt lonely, disconnected, and sad. 58% of the survey responses mentioned close relationships, saying that hearing loss drove a wedge between them and their loved ones. Some even said their hearing loss led to a breakup. Many participants also talked about feeling isolated or dealing with depression.

How’s Your Mental Health?

If you have hearing loss, it’s time to think about your mental health. Hearing loss can lead to a number of communication issues. You may ask your loved ones to repeat themselves over and over again. You feel frustrated that you can’t hear, and your loved ones can get annoyed that they have to keep repeating themselves. You may find yourself more easily upset or irritated. Many people with hearing loss stop putting in the effort to communicate, since it easier to avoid conversations and avoid getting frustrated. 

Living with untreated hearing loss can also make you exhausted. You use so much energy straining to hear that by the evening you’re far too tired to try to have a meaningful conversation with your family. 

Hearing loss makes it very difficult to hear in places with background noise, so you may decide to avoid social events. You don’t see your friends as often, and this can lead to more feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Other negative outcomes of hearing loss can include:

  • Difficulty sleeping at night
  • Reduced mobility
  • Worse balance
  • Increased memory loss
  • Higher risk of dementia

Treating Hearing Loss Improves Mental Health

Now for some good news. When you treat your hearing loss, not only are you making it easier to hear, you’re also improving your mental health! We can fit you with quality hearing aids to help you hear in a variety of listening situations. 

You’ll be able to hear during conversations with your loved ones, and even hear in places with background noise. When you can hear clearly, you won’t feel so frustrated, and you’ll be able to communicate easily. Hearing aids give you the confidence to go to social events, and hear conversations even in crowded restaurants. With hearing aids you’ll maintain your relationships with family and friends, and have the social support you need to be healthy. 

You’ll also have more energy! Hearing aids reduce listening fatigue, and you’ll have energy in the evenings to talk to your loved ones or do the things you love. You’ll be more social, enjoy time with family and friends, and get back to your hobbies. 

Treating your hearing loss helps your mental health. Wearing quality hearing aids that match your hearing needs will help you hear when you need it the most. You’ll follow conversations, talk on the phone, enjoy outdoor activities, and hear the TV. Don’t waste any more time straining to hear or let your mental health suffer. Visit us today to find out how hearing aids can help your mental health.

A Link Between Hearing Loss & Dementia 

A Link Between Hearing Loss & Dementia

Dementia is a chronic health condition that impacts nearly 6 million people in the U.S. Dementia refers to a range of diseases that are characterized by cognitive decline: memory loss, difficulty concentrating, reduced ability to solve problems and make decisions etc. These symptoms restrict one’s capacity to manage daily life independently. There are several types of dementia that include Lewy Body, Parkinson’s, vascular, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s accounts for 60-80% of all types of dementia that people experience. Dementia is a condition that is irreversible so identifying risk factors is incredibly crucial in establishing ways that it can be prevented or delayed. Significant research has shown that hearing loss increases the risk for cognitive decline. 

Understanding Hearing Loss 

A pervasive health issue, hearing loss impacts millions of people. There is a range of factors that can cause hearing loss including existing medical conditions, genetic history, and environmental exposure to loud noise. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

    • Nearly 1 in 8 people (ages 12 and older) have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears
    • 25% of adults ages 65-74 have hearing loss 
    • 50% of adults 75 and older have hearing loss 

These statistics highlight that hearing loss is the third most common medical condition that older adults navigate. Impaired hearing restricts one’s ability to absorb and process sound. This (most commonly) is the result of damaged hair cells in the inner ear. The inner ear consists of thousands of hair cells and nerve endings that help translate soundwaves into electrical signals for the brain to process which is how we are able to make sense of what we hear. These hair cells do not regenerate, meaning that when they are damaged, the impairment is permanent. Hearing loss strains communication which if left untreated, can take a toll on relationships and impact job performance. Additionally, hearing loss also contributes to the development of various other medical conditions including cognitive decline.

Link Between Hearing Loss & Dementia

Research has shown that there is a significant correlation between hearing loss and dementia which are chronic health issues that disproportionately impact older adults: 

    • 80% of people who have Alzheimer’s are 75 and older
    • 50% of adults aged 75 and older have disabling hearing loss 

Understanding the nature of how these conditions are related continues to be the subject of ongoing research. In a major study, published in 2019, researchers investigated this link by collecting data on self-reported hearing loss and cognitive decline. Conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston), researchers carried out an 8-year study involving 10,107 participants. Beginning in 2008, participants who had no cognitive concerns, self-reported their hearing status and cognitive function. Collected every four years (2008, 2012, and 2016), the findings revealed that the development of hearing loss increased the risk of cognitive decline. Specifically, cognitive decline was: 

    • 30% higher among people with mild hearing loss 
    • 42% higher among people with moderate hearing loss 
    • 54% higher among people with severe hearing loss 

These findings not only show that cognitive decline was more likely with people who had hearing loss but also that the greater the hearing loss, the increased chance that someone developed cognitive decline. Exactly how this happens continues to be further investigated. Researchers suggest that the presence of hearing loss renders parts of the brain (responsible for how we hear) inactive. The brain cells, muscles, and nerve pathways that are not being used (because of hearing impairment) then impacts overall cognitive function.  

Treating Hearing Loss 

A critical way to prevent or delay the development of dementia is by treating hearing loss. Addressing hearing loss is relatively simple and starts by scheduling an appointment for a hearing test. Conducted by our team of hearing healthcare specialists, hearing tests involve a noninvasive process that determines any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss you may be experiencing. 

Hearing loss is most commonly treated by hearing aids which are electronic devices designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This significantly increases one’s ability to hear which has numerous benefits including: enhancing communication, improving relationships, and strengthening overall health! 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month!

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month!

 

At least 20 percent of U.S. adults, at some point in their lives experience a significant difficulty in hearing. These challenges can compromise physical and emotional health and affect the social, educational, vocational, and recreational aspects of life. Ever since 1927, The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) has designated May as Better Speech and Hearing Month. It is a time to raise public awareness of the hearing and speech-language disorders that affect over 14 million Americans. Every May ASHA helps spread a hopeful, positive message about communication disorders—and the important role of the professionals who treat them. This year is no different, with the theme of “Communication Across the Lifespan. ”

Hearing Loss Across the Life Span

According to the Center for Hearing Loss and Communication, 48 million Americans are affected by hearing loss, which can begin at birth or develop at any age. For example, hearing loss can be present at birth or develop over time and effect adults who use their voices a lot in their jobs, such as teachers and performers. ASHA supports a wide range of research to help develop effective diagnostic and treatment strategies relevant to communication throughout the lifespan.

One of the most common communication disorders in older adults is hearing loss, affecting approximately one in three adults ages 65 to 74, and nearly half of those older than 75. Hearing loss can lead to feelings of isolation and loss of connection from family, friends, and the community. Although hearing aids and other assistive devices can improve quality of life, only about one in four adults (age 20 and over) who could benefit from hearing aids have ever used them.

Knowing the Signs Of Hearing Loss

Before you can seek treatment for hearing loss, you must first accept that you have a condition hindering your communication. Most cases of hearing loss develop gradually so the symptoms are often difficult to recognize. Some clear signs of hearing loss include;

  • – You believe people are mumbling
  • – People often complain that your television or radio is turned up too loud
  • – Difficulty in hearing someone calling from behind you
  • – Difficulty communicating in small groups of people
  • – Communication difficulties in noisy environments
  • – A frequent need to ask people to repeat themselves
  • – Difficulties in hearing the doorbell or the telephone ringing
  • – Family, colleagues and friends suggest you might be suffering from hearing loss
  • – You have to lip read the people who talk to you
  • – You feel that you must really concentrate to hear someone talk or whisper

The Dangers of Untreated Hearing Loss

If you experience these signs of hearing loss, you may feel that your social life is suffering too because of hearing and communication difficulties. You may even be tempted to avoid social gatherings and other social situations where misunderstandings become common. This can put a real strain on your relationships with friends, family and even your spouse.  Hearing loss often leads to poor performance at work, causing your earning power to plummet and employers to values you less. Ultimately these communication difficulties can lead to isolation and depression, and there is even a link between untreated hearing loss and dementia.

The Benefits of Treatment

Fortunately, hearing loss is treatable. According to the Better Hearing Institute, 95 percent of Americans with hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids and individuals who treat their hearing loss early have shown significant benefit. Hearing aids help process incoming sound making it easier for your brain to understand them.  With the modern innovations of hearing aids today they are more user friendly than ever before and designed to work with your lifestyle.  There has never been a better time than now to need hearing aids, and, in the future, the innovative features of hearing aids will only be more affordable.

Hearing Consultants

If you suspect you have hearing loss use this May’s Better Speech and Hearing Month as a call to action.  At Hearing Consultants, we can help.  Contact us to set up a hearing test.  Hearing tests are quick and painless and can confirm whether or not you have a hearing loss.  You have nothing to lose and so much to gain!

 

Why Do People Shy Away from Treating Hearing Loss?

Why Do People Shy Away from Treating Hearing Loss?

 

Do you have hearing loss? Are you avoiding talking about your hearing loss, or scared to admit to family and friends that you’re struggling to hear? Roughly 40 million Americans have hearing loss, but only around 1 in every 3 people who need hearing aids actually have them. This is because many people shy away from treating their hearing loss, and choose to ignore their hearing health.

Investing in Hearing Aids

One big reason people shy away from treating hearing loss is the cost of investing in hearing aids. Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, and when people weigh the pros and cons of treating their hearing loss, they’ll often choose their bank account over their hearing health, because the initial investment of purchasing hearing aids seems high.

While this might seem to save you money in the moment, untreated hearing loss is actually costing you thousands of dollars. Those who live with untreated hearing loss are more prone to trips, slips and falls. They have more accidents, and are hospitalized more often than their hearing peers. They also visit the doctor far more often, and have higher medical costs. Not only that, but they spend years of their lives missing out on the important sounds around them, damaging the relationships that matter the most, and struggling with social isolation or even depression.

Over the Counter Hearing Aids

When considering the cost of hearing aids, some Americans choose to purchase over the counter devices. Sadly, these devices become another reason people shy away from treating hearing loss. In theory, over the counter hearing aids seem great, providing hearing with a cheap price tag. Unfortunately, when you purchase over the counter hearing aids, you won’t have customized hearing, and the devices likely won’t fit your ears or your hearing needs. Over the counter hearing aids aren’t calibrated to match your unique hearing profile, and you won’t get the benefit of wearing devices. If the device itself fits poorly, you’ll also experience whistling, feedback, or even discomfort.

After a disappointing experience with over the counter devices, people shy away from treating hearing loss, or investing money in a quality hearing device from a hearing health specialist.

Facing the Stigma of Hearing Loss

Another reason people shy away from looking after their hearing health is the stigma that still surrounds hearing loss. Many people feel that talking about their hearing loss, or admitting that their hearing isn’t as sharp as it once was is like admitting that they’re getting old. It’s important to realize that hearing loss affects people of all ages, and has a number of causes. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect seniors, and isn’t about getting old. Treating hearing loss and being able to keep up with the kids lets you seem as young as you feel, and sleek, sophisticated devices will make you seem younger, not older.

The Price of Untreated Hearing Loss

If you think the cost of hearing devices is high, the price of living with untreated hearing loss is far higher. Not only will you be missing out on the sounds around you, but your physical, mental, and emotional health will suffer as well. Those with untreated hearing loss have higher rates of anxiety, social isolation, and depression, and when communication breaks down, relationships will suffer. Those with hearing loss also experience more rapid cognitive decline, have trouble focusing on tasks, and risk earlier onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Hearing Consultants

It’s time to face your hearing loss head on, and stop shying away from treating hearing loss. Many people wait between 5 and 7 years before treating their hearing loss! Don’t become part of that statistic, but do the right thing for your health and your bank account, and call us today at the Hearing Consultants to start your journey to clear hearing.

After a comprehensive hearing test to determine your unique hearing needs, we’ll work with you to find the perfect hearing devices that will give you back your ability to hear in every listening environment. They’ll be programmed to match your lifestyle, and you can focus at work, enjoy time with your friends, and invest in your loved ones. Don’t shy away from treating hearing loss, and visit our hearing health specialists at Hearing Consultants.

 

How Exercise, Diet, Sleep, and Hearing Affect Brain Aging

How Exercise, Diet, Sleep, and Hearing Affect Brain Aging

Have you been wondering what factors affect your brain, and what can lead to early aging? Exercise, diet, sleep, and hearing all affect brain aging. If you look after your health today, you can look forward to a future with a healthy brain, but if you ignore the advice of your doctor, you could be facing some serious consequences as you age.

What Happens to the Brain as We Age?

According to Stephen M. Stahl, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, exercise, diet, sleep, and hearing are the 4 biggest factors that affect the brain as we age. “In normal aging, our brains slow down,” explains Stahl. “Intelligence remains stable, but we become less mentally flexible. We have longer processing time and declines in motor, sensory, and cognitive abilities.” In fact, in normal aging, the brain shrinks, and there is less white matter tissue in an older brain, as well as less myelin, the coating along neural pathways that speeds up synaptic activity in the brain.

Exercise and the Brain

It’s no secret that staying mobile is the key to staying young. Running around the park with your grandchildren will keep you young at heart, help you maintain a healthy weight, and keep your joints working smoothly. For those who are active as they age, the risk of dementia is lowered by 32%, meaning that your brain is a lot healthier! Even exercising for half an hour 3 or more times a week has great benefits for your overall health and wellbeing as well as your brain health. Recent studies show that exercising leads to improved attention and processing speed, as well as better memory recall and decision-making skills.

Diet and the Brain

They say you are what you eat, and this might hold more truth than you realize. Two diets that are great for the brain are the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the Mediterranean Diet (MediDiet). While you can follow any healthy diet, the reason these particular diets showed great brain health was due to the high recommended consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. Both diets also recommend a low intake of red meat or any processed meats. For adults following these diets, studies show improved cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline, and better brain health.

Sleep and the Brain

This one is a real no-brainer, and we all know how tired and unfocused we are if we haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Sleep disorders are increasingly common among seniors, and many adults struggle with insomnia or sleep apnea, both of which impact your ability to fall asleep and sleep deeply through the night. A lack of sleep has some extremely negative health outcomes, including stress, anxiety, and depression. You might also experience irritability, moodiness, and the inability to concentrate on tasks.

Hearing and the Brain

Finally, hearing has been closely linked to brain health. Hearing loss affects millions of Americans of all ages, and especially among seniors, living with untreated hearing loss is hurting your brain. Hearing loss is linked to rapid cognitive decline, and a higher risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Those with hearing loss aren’t able to communicate easily, often withdraw from conversations, and face social isolation. The brain doesn’t get enough exercise, and in a case of use it or lose it, hearing loss can lead to poor brain health. Hearing loss has also been linked to problems with memory, attention span, and the ability to focus on difficult tasks, whether at home or at the office.

Hearing Consultants

Do the right thing for your brain, and call us today at the Hearing Consultants. According to Stahl, treating hearing loss can lead to cognitive improvements, and when you get a quality pair of hearing aids, you’ll notice the difference not just in your hearing, but in your cognitive abilities. Your friends and family will be amazed at how well you can hold your own in battles of the wit, and you’ll wish you’d treated your hearing loss sooner. Once you’ve looked after your hearing health, take a close look at your exercise, diet, and sleep patterns, and learn new ways to preserve brain health.

 

Symptoms of Memory Loss Could Actually Be Hearing Loss

Symptoms of Memory Loss Could Actually Be Hearing Loss

 

The connection between hearing loss and cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have been clearly established in the medical literature. Researchers have shown that those who have hearing loss are statistically more likely to have dementia and the decline of cognitive ability among those who have hearing loss tends to be quicker, as well. However, the nature of that connection remains unclear. Some suspect that the two simply occur at the same time of life, and many experience both conditions at once. Yet, the statistical results of these studies demonstrate a stronger link than mere coincidence. This link may have a causal dimension. It is possible that having hearing loss actually makes it more likely to have a cognitive dysfunction, such as dementia.

A New Study on Hearing Loss & Memory

A recent study in the Canadian Journal on Aging demonstrated the possibility of this link. Dr. Susan Vandermorris is a neuropsychologist at Baycrest, and she led the study of the connection between memory loss, an early sign of dementia, and hearing loss. The majority of participants who were evaluated for memory, thinking, brain, and cognitive concerns had some form of hearing loss, ranging from mild to severe. Out of this group who had hearing loss, only about 20 percent were using assistance, such as hearing aids. This anomaly led the researchers to think more deeply about the connection between memory loss, hearing loss, and how we measure each condition.

A quarter of the participants in this study did not show any signs of memory loss due to a brain disorder, yet something led them to seek treatment. That something is often a loved one or family member. Clients who came seeking treatment tended to be urged by a close relative who has complained that they don’t seem to be paying attention that they don’t seem to be listening to what they have to say, or that they don’t remember what was said to them in conversation. As you can see, these conditions may be closely related to hearing loss. When a person seems to be checked out, unable to pay attention, or unable to remember details of conversations, each of these experiences is equally likely to be due to hearing loss as it is to memory loss.

The connection between memory loss and hearing loss is a puzzle that remains to be solved. Those who suspect that hearing loss may cause dementia point to the link between spoken language and cognition. When a person has hearing loss, the sounds that encounter the ears are a jumble of randomness. Fragments of words might break through, and sounds can be like the pieces of puzzle. The time expected for a person to understand a conversation is like putting a timer on the game, requiring the listener to quickly throw together random sounds into something meaningful, even when speech is unintelligible. You can imagine how difficult this process might be, creating a heavy cognitive load on the person with hearing loss. The mind is under constant assault during these conversations, with too much being expected of it and too few audible resources.

Many neuropsychologists suspect that this cognitive load can spill over into other areas of thought, and this relationship may even be responsible for memory loss and dementia. That being the case, this study points to two components of the relationship between hearing loss and memory loss. In the first instance, a loved one may simply mistake hearing loss for memory loss. When a person cannot hear what is said, she or he will have no opportunity to remember it! In the other case, it is possible that hearing loss may actually be a risk factor for developing memory loss and more advanced dementia.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

With these two components of the relationship between hearing loss and memory loss, it is more urgent than ever to seek assistance for hearing problems. At Hearing Consultants, we provide comprehensive hearing tests. If a hearing loss is detected, treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids can make an incredible difference in your ability to understand, think, and remember, especially when it comes to face-to-face conversations. The first step is the simplest. Call us at Hearing Consultantsto make an appointment for a hearing test and consultation to embark on the path toward healthy hearing once again.  

 

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month

Did you know that November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month? In 1983, President Ronald Reagan wanted to shed light on this devastating disease, which at the time affect 2 million people. That number has since grown to over 5 million people affected by Alzheimer’s disease.  Here at Hearing Consultants, our commitment to hearing health means that we want to bring awareness to the link between untreated hearing loss and a potential risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies on Hearing Loss and Cognitive Abilities

A striking connection has been discovered between hearing loss and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Frank Lin and his fellow researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered two important findings regarding this connection. In the first case, they have found that hearing loss and dementia are statistically linked, with those who have an untreated hearing loss more likely to experience diminished cognitive abilities, which opens up the risk for dementia. In another study, they also found a link between the rate of decline for those who have both dementia and hearing loss. In other words, those who had hearing loss along with dementia experienced a faster decline in their cognitive ability.

It is important to note that hearing loss affects two-thirds of people over the age of 65 and is a natural occurrence with aging. Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is common and treatable. On the other hand, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (which makes up 60% to 80% of dementia cases) are not natural conditions when it comes to aging. Among the risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s, two stand out to us: untreated hearing loss and social isolation.

The Effects of Hearing Loss on Your Social Life

Take a moment to think back to the last time you were at a large social gathering for the holidays. Perhaps it was a public event such as a concert, play, or movie. You might be thinking of a family party where everyone converged at the end of the year to catch up and revisit memories from past holidays. You might even be thinking of the experience of shopping for gifts in a crowded locale, such as a shopping mall or city commercial district. Now ask yourself: how important was my hearing in that instance?

With few exceptions, you will agree that hearing is crucial to your ability to take part in a social gathering around the holidays. Even at small events, such as a gathering of immediate family members, the ability to have a conversation relies on the ability to hear what others are saying. Without that ability, the puzzle falls to pieces, and you are left feeling alone within the crowd. You might even recall holidays past when you were able to easily relate with your family members and closest friends. Without the ability to hear properly in a conversation, that connection can be lost.

One of the most common signs of untreated hearing loss is social isolation. As we know, hearing loss can be an isolating experience. Those who struggle to understand what others have to say may find themselves increasingly reticent to engage in social events, parties, and family gatherings. Even if they do attend, they may prefer to keep quiet and let others do the talking. Any attempt at communication may be met with frustration, anger, or embarrassment. Some will feel that they are not able to connect with even their closest loved ones. All of this can accumulate to the experience of social isolation. Either desiring to stay home during social events or avoiding communication while attending them, people with hearing loss may find themselves isolated from others.

This social isolation may hold a key to understanding the link with dementia. We know that communication is key to keeping the cognitive process freely flowing and open to new information.

Treating Hearing Loss

This holiday season, take the opportunity to give a priceless gift to your family by seeking hearing loss treatment. If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing abilities, it is important to contact us at Hearing Consultants. Just imagine how much more enjoyable these holiday gatherings can be when you feel connected to the sounds around you! Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Cognitive Difficulties and Untreated Hearing Loss

Cognitive difficulties and untreated hearing loss

 

September is World Alzheimer’s month and it seems only fitting we talk about untreated hearing loss. Why? Because untreated hearing loss has been linked to the onset of dementia, the most common form of Alzheimer’s. You shouldn’t delay getting a hearing evaluation at Hearing Consultants.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a brain condition that affects parts of the brain that control cognitive processes – thought, memory and language. It is not a normal part of aging. It shrinks parts of the brain cells. Dementia is a form of Alzheimer’s and 60 to 80% of those with dementia have it because of Alzheimer’s. There is no cure, but there are certain things you can do to combat Alzheimer’s and one of them is maintaining good hearing. Numerous studies done here, in Europe and in Asia have discovered what is likely a link between untreated hearing loss and the on set of dementia.

The most common symptoms of dementia are memory loss and the loss of cognitive abilities which in turn leads to withdrawing from society and work.
Forgetfulness should not be confused with dementia although memory loss is one of the first signs. Forgetfulness is misplacing your keys because you took them out of your pocket and set them down. Memory loss is walking into the park where you’ve walked hundreds of times before and not remembering which path to take to get out.

Early stage indicators

Alzheimer’s typically starts to manifest around 65 or so – but can show up earlier. Hearing loss and Alzheimer’s advance slowly, but untreated hearing loss increases the odds of dementia and, unlike dementia – it can be treated!
Some early indicators of Alzheimer’s include: getting lost in familiar places, trouble finding common words to describe common objects, trouble handling money and paying bills, repeating the same question in conversations in a very short span of time, taking longer to complete every day tasks, displaying poor judgement, losing things or misplacing them in odd places, paranoia and distrust of family and caregivers and mood and personality changes.

It’s use it or lose it

We’ve all seen that information on how to keep your brain sharp to avoid Alzheimer’s and that is, actually, one way,. There’s also exercise, eating healthy, and getting high blood pressure treated; obesity is a factor and untreated hearing loss.

The idea is that processing sounds correctly sends auditory signals to the brain. It keeps that part of the brain active and engaged. Over time, if you don’t treat hearing loss, those parts of the brain that process sound start to go dark – literally. Brain imaging of those with untreated hearing loss and dementia show portions of the brain are dark or not being used.

Hearing devices, luckily, fire those parts of the brain back up. Those with dementia and untreated hearing loss do show improvement in cognitive abilities with the addition of hearing aids, studies show.

Nearly 48 million Americans have hearing loss and unfortunately, statistics show many wait between three and five years to get hearing loss treated. During that time, the brain strains to “hear” and process sounds and conversations. This can result in a sort of cognitive overload which may hasten dementia. Scientists explain it as diverting brain power that should be used for cognitive purposes to trying to decipher and process sounds.

Isolation also a factor

Untreated hearing loss can cause you to withdraw from societal interaction. You may not want people to notice you can’t hear things or process a conversation. These interactions also help keep the brain sharp. There are some indications that depression associated with societal withdrawal because of untreated hearing loss can also increase the chances of dementia.

Hearing devices can help

The first step towards hearing health is scheduling a hearing evaluation at Hearing Consultants. A painless hearing exam will determine if you have hearing loss and the staff professionals can then set you on a course for better hearing health. Hearing aid styles these days range from oh-so-tiny devices that fit discreetly inside your ear to over the ear devices tinted to match your skin or hair. Most people can’t tell if it’s a hearing aid or a Bluetooth device! It’s not worth delaying even a day – call for a test today.

Is Your Mood Connected to Hearing Loss?

Is Your Mood Connected to Hearing Loss?

We’ve all experienced the warm, fuzzy feeling of a dopamine boost after working out, listening to a favorite song, taking a bite of dark chocolate or receiving a sweet message from a loved one. This neurotransmitter, used as a hormone in the body, can help to elevate your mood and counteract depression — but it may also help you hear better.

How is dopamine connected to our hearing?

We hear with our ears, but also with our brains, which is why dopamine–a neurotransmitter that our brain produces to help us stay focused and motivated–could potentially affect the way our hearing functions. Dopamine has already been shown to improve memory, but now there is evidence that this neurotransmitter is important to our hearing as well.

So how does hearing happen in the brain? The auditory nerve sends sound signals from the cochlea to the auditory center of the brain, where they are processed and become decipherable. But if this pathway becomes damaged, a person can develop sensorineural hearing loss, the most common type. Typically caused by aging and noise exposure, sensorineural hearing loss cannot be cured, but it can be effectively treated with hearing aids and cochlear implants.

French researchers examined the link between the dopamine transporter, a protein that moves dopamine to nerve synapses, and the auditory nerve.  Their conclusion was that dopamine is in fact vital in maintaining the healthy functioning of the auditory nerve and the way it processes sound signals. The study was published in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Hearing can be therapeutic

It is well known among hearing health professionals that untreated hearing loss can lead to an abundance of other health issues, including depression, isolation and reduced mobility. Conversely, treating hearing loss with hearing aids has been shown to improve people’s quality of life as they age and help to protect against these problems. The sense of hearing is also vital in slowing the progression of certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Music therapy has proven beneficial in treating patients with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia, because of its ability to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Dan Cohen, once a social worker, now devotes his time to his “Music and Memory” program, which emphasizes the strong connection between music and the mind.

In his short YouTube video, you can see “Henry”, an elderly Alzheimer’s patient who can hardly speak, come to life after listening to some music through a pair of headphones. Henry is able to talk and answer questions even after the headphones come off, and even sings some of his favorite tunes.

Auditory stimuli can also help to boost dopamine levels in young people, according to a Canadian study. A McGill University-based research team measured brain activity in eight 19-24-year olds, as they listened to the music they had chosen. According to PET and MRI scans performed on the participants, dopamine levels increased six to nine percent.

How to safeguard your hearing health–and boost your dopamine

1. Exercise. Getting active can naturally increase your dopamine levels, and cardio workouts have the added benefit of improving your circulation. Both of these things have been proven to have a beneficial effect on hearing health. So, take a brisk walk, hit the treadmill or go for a swim. Your body–and your ears–will thank you.

2. Eat healthy. Foods that are high in sugar, fat and caffeine can definitely give you an instant dopamine rush, but these unhealthy snacks may actually disrupt your body’s dopamine production process in the long run. In order to make dopamine, your body requires foods that are rich in tyrosine such as turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy and legumes. Foods full of potassium, such as bananas, are particularly beneficial to the ears.

3. Start meditating. Meditation is one of the most effective ways of reducing stress, and less stress means more dopamine. Living with hearing loss, whether your own a loved one’s, can be stressful, and meditation is a good way to bring focus and calm back into your life.

4. Listen to music (safely). Listening to music is a proven way to elevate your dopamine levels and improve your mood. This increased dopamine can, in theory, help to protect the neurons and synapses in the auditory processing center of your brain. But if you make listening to music a part of your daily life, remember to listen conscientiously. Protect your ears from long-term hearing damage by listening at a reasonable volume and taking short ‘listening breaks’ to let your ears rest.

Visit Us at Hearing Consultants

There is no reason to live with untreated hearing loss. If you have experienced changes in your hearing abilities, schedule a hearing test with us at Hearing Consultants today!