November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month

November is National Alzheimer’s Month, as designated in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. Now affecting over 5 million people in the US, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common forms of dementia, making up 60% to 80% of cases. This November, we would like to shed light on the correlation between untreated hearing loss, social isolation, and an increased risk for developing dementia.

With the upcoming holidays, this time of year can be full of activity. We travel near and far to reconnect with our loved ones at parties, family gatherings, and dinners. When these social events come around, we relish in the opportunity to catch up with our friends and family. However, for people with hearing loss, these events may pose a challenge when it comes to communication and speech recognition.


Studies on Untreated Hearing Loss and Dementia

In the US, two-thirds of Americans over the age of 65 experience some degree of hearing loss. Despite its prevalence, hearing loss is often left undiagnosed and untreated, which could bring harmful consequences to our overall health and well-being. Researchers have found a link between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk for developing dementia.

At Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Frank Lin and his team have undertaken a broad research program to investigate the relationship between these two conditions. In one study, he and his fellow researchers addressed the statistical relationship between these two groups, asking if it is more likely for someone with untreated hearing loss to develop dementia, and the answer was yes. Their findings showed that “mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. Moderate loss tripled risk, and people with a severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia.” In another study, researchers found that people with untreated hearing loss experienced a quicker cognitive decline once they had received a dementia diagnosis.


Hearing Loss, Communication, and Social Isolation

To fill in the gap between the statistical regularity and the relationship between hearing loss and dementia, many have pointed to the link between hearing, communication, understanding, and other forms of cognition. Those of us who have healthy hearing or assisted hearing are able to capture entire units of sound in the form of sentences and complete thoughts. Those with hearing loss, on the other hand, tend to encounter only small fragments of sound. These syllables or phonemes can seem like a collection of sounds without meaning. The experience might be akin to listening to a language that one does not speak. In these cases, the brain has to work harder to make sense of audio information it receives, which could lead to a heavier cognitive load. The inability to understand speech might lead the brain to exhaust itself, which takes away from other processes, such as forming or recalling memories.

With these surmounting challenges, people with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw socially. When it becomes difficult to follow conversations, especially in loud settings such as restaurants or bars, people may avoid social gatherings. Researchers have listed social isolation as a risk factor that contributes to dementia, and with untreated hearing loss, it is more likely that people find themselves isolated from their loved ones and communities.


Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

This link between hearing loss and dementia is just one of the many reasons to seek assistance with your hearing if you are experiencing hearing loss. With hearing aids, you can make the jump from frustration to relief. Especially now, the benefits of treating hearing loss will extend to upcoming social events this holiday season.

Treating hearing loss is painless and easy: it requires a simple hearing test to determine whether a hearing loss is present. If we detect a hearing loss, our team will work with you to find the best solution to meet your hearing needs. Hearing loss is most commonly addressed with the prescription of hearing aids, which are designed to improve speech recognition and sound clarity in any environment.

Give yourself the gift of better hearing this holiday season, and don’t miss out on a single moment with your loved ones. To schedule a consultation and hearing test, contact our team at Hearing Spa today.