We have spoken before on Hearing Aid Know about the connection between hearing loss and dementia, initially with a warning about what was true and what wasn’t in the article “Untreated Hearing Loss Causes Dementia!!!!!!!“. We followed up that article with an update on the changing attitude of the medical profession in the article “Untreated Hearing Loss & The Dementia Connection“. In essence, we now believe that untreated hearing loss is a risk factor for the development of dementia. In this article, Cassie Lomax discusses hearing loss, dementia and why sometimes they can be confused, among other topics.
As well as being a natural part of the ageing process, hearing loss may be connected to cognitive impairment in older people. It is well known that leaving hearing loss undiagnosed can lead to anxiety, depression and social isolation. It is now believed that dementia, instead of starting independently from a gradual loss of hearing, can in some cases be caused by it directly.
Hear All Sides
A recent study reported in The Guardian showed that age-related hearing loss was significantly linked to cognitive decline. One theory behind this, examined by researchers at John Hopkins University, is that so much effort is required to decipher meaning that the brain becomes vulnerable to deterioration. Another is that people with untreated hearing loss are at risk of becoming more dependent on others and so start to decline physically and mentally. Social isolation, often a consequence of hearing loss, is also blamed for the onset of dementia.
Listen to Reason
You may notice someone close to you has started to not register important information and this could cause you to think they are starting to forget things but this might not be because of dementia. It’s impossible to remember something if you didn’t hear it in the first place. If you are concerned, it is important to ensure a hearing test is carried out and once any problems are corrected, it will be possible to deal with any underlying issues such as changes in mood or confusion that may have been masked by the loss of hearing. Understanding the signs of dementia, and being able to spot them early, means that therapies designed to ease symptoms can be started sooner. It also allows more time to consider the possibilities for future care.
Good to Hear
As well as demonstrating some of the same symptoms, hearing loss and dementia can use some of the same techniques to alleviate them. It’s important to ask for clarity and not be embarrassed to ask people to repeat themselves if you haven’t properly heard or understood. Use journals and posts it notes and tools such as clocks and calendars to keep informed. At the same time, if you are dealing with someone suffering from hearing loss and dementia, it is vital to be patient and to keep them included in the conversation, even if it is frustrating for you and them.
If hearing loss and dementia are preventing you or a family member from following everyday conversations, it’s easy to lose touch with basic social structures. For this reason, it’s vital to promote participation in society and keep connected in order to improve quality of life.