I don’t hear about Dementia in the future! Do you?

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It’s a no-brainer that a healthy, active mind can prevent the onset of dementia but what about the depreciation of nerves within the brain that cannot be prevented such as hearing loss? It is a known fact that hearing loss is associated with age and is irreversible therefore is it possible both factors are linked? Several major studies suggest that those with a mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal hearing.

The risk is tripled with moderate hearing loss and even higher for severe hearing impairment. Studies have shown that overall there is a 30-40% greater risk of cognitive decline in those with a hearing impairment compared to those with normal hearing. Furthermore, subsequent studied have concluded that there is a direct correlation between the degree of hearing impairment and dementia. The hypothesis is that it could be due to the fact that when the hearing nerves lose their function and no longer processes sound signals, the brain’s ability to recall particular sounds impairs over time and becomes unable to understand them. So what is the cure?

Hearing aids do more than just help you hear. In fact, they help to retrain your brain to remember the sounds you can no longer hear naturally and retain the memory of sound. Sounds are stored in the accessible brain centres for three years once experienced. Once those sounds are not accessed, rewiring occurs and causes those areas of the brain to become weaker. Effectively, hearing aids reactivate and stimulate the area of your brain associated with sounds which have not been heard over a long period of time. Once hearing aids have been fitted the hearing process resumes, supplying signals to the brain and in theory keeping that area of your brain active!

Advances in hearing-aid technology today allow for the possibility to have an invisible device even for severe types of hearing loss. An untreated hearing loss not only affects the quality of life but also affects normal cognitive brain functioning. As hearing loss is a gradual process, the brain’s ability to compensate makes hearing loss difficult to recognise.

As a preventative measure, having an annual hearing screening in order to catch and treat hearing loss may slow down its progression as well as the cognitive decline associated with hearing loss. If you are already aware of the symptoms of hearing loss, it would be a wise decision to consult with you GP or visit a specialist for further tests.

About the Author

Maria Amer is a qualified Clinical Audiologist registered under the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) regulatory body. She has built considerable skills and knowledge to administer and interpret diagnostic audiological tests such as determining type and degree of hearing impairment, site of damage as well as an effect on speech intelligibility and quality of life, thereby aiming to provide the highest quality care, treatment options and rehabilitation service.  Maria practices her profession at Boots Hearingcare , based in Kingston upon Thames, United Kingdom.