How A Hearing Test Can Help Prevent Dementia
For one reason or another, it’s extremely common for people who think they may be starting to have difficulties with their hearing to put off having a hearing test. There is significant social stigma around hearing loss: it can be seen as a sign of “getting old”, which is something that no one wants to think about.
However, our hearing changes from as early as our twenties, becoming less sensitive tohigh frequency sounds. By the age of 50, 42% of people are likely to have a high frequency hearing loss, which can make it particularly difficult to hear in environments with lots of background noise.
Age-related hearing loss is a natural part of growing older, but more importantly, it’s been clinically proven that untreated hearing loss is linked to the development of dementia.
What is dementia?
Dementia is the term used to describe a range of brain disorders causing problems with speech,
memory and problem-solving. As life expectancy increase, the number of people diagnosed with dementia is rising, affecting more than 850,000 people in the UK. According to The Alzheimer’s Society, in 2015 dementia became the number one cause of death in England and Wales.1
Dementia and hearing loss
In 2011, a well-known US medical study found that the risk of dementia was linked to hearing loss, with more thanone third of individuals with dementia over the age of 60 also having a hearing loss. Furthermore, the risk of dementia was found to increase in line with the severity of the hearing loss.
Dementia and hearing loss are connected through auditory deprivation; over time, the brain becomes unable to interpret words due to lack of stimulation caused by untreated hearing loss. This means that individuals with an untreated hearing loss experience an accelerated rate of the loss of brain tissue, increasing the chances of dementia.
If you wear hearing aids, the auditory cortex within your brain remains active, helping to prevent auditory deprivation and significantly slowing deterioration of your hearing.
How can a hearing test help?
As the likelihood of developing dementia increases with the severity of the hearing loss, identifying a hearing loss as early as possible significantly contributes to slowing the possible onset of the disease. Untreated hearing loss can also lead to feelings of frustration and social isolation asan individual struggles to follow conversation, and can even lead to depression in extreme cases.
In the sameway as you have regular eye tests, regular hearing tests can help an audiologist to monitor your hearing over time and identify any possible changes. This allows any issues to be addressed early, minimising the impact that hearing loss might have on your life.
Should your audiologist suggest that hearing aids may be required, there are many options to choose from, all of which are discreet, lightweight and packed with incredible technology to help reduce listening effort – a key benefit in helping your brain to make sense of sound.
If you have any questions about your hearing or that of a loved one, The Hearing Care Partnership offers independent expert advice on your hearing health, with friendly audiologists available in local clinics. For more information, or to book a free hearing test call us on 0800 52 00 546 or you can book an appointment online.