Have you ever wondered what effect hearing loss has on your overall health? Studies have linked hearing loss to reduced mobility, greater chances of trips, slips, and falls, and far more hospitalizations. When communication is affected relationships suffer, so hearing loss is also closely linked to depression, social anxiety, and social isolation. On top of all of this, hearing loss is bad for your brain, and a recent study found that symptoms of memory loss could actually be hearing loss.
Studying Memory and Hearing Loss
Do you or a loved one have any of the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia? If you’ve been struggling with any kind of memory loss, you should get your hearing checked as soon as possible. A Baycrest study published in the Canadian Journal on Aging discovered that 56% of those with some memory loss, trouble focusing, or other early symptoms of dementia, also had hearing loss. In fact, their memory loss symptoms were actually hearing loss.
Apparent memory loss could be a sign of hearing loss rather than actual memory loss. According to Dr. Susan Vandermorris, a clinical neuropsychologist at Baycrest, you might think that your loved one has memory loss and can’t remember things you’ve told them, but this could just be their hearing loss. “We commonly see clients who are worried about Alzheimer’s disease because their partner complains that they don’t seem to pay attention,” explains Dr. Vandermorris. “They don’t seem to listen, or they don’t remember what is said to them. Sometimes addressing hearing loss may mitigate or fix what looks like a memory issue.”
Hearing Health and Brain Health
If you’re concerned about your brain health, treat your hearing loss. “Some people may be reluctant to address hearing loss,” says Dr. Vandermorris, “but they need to be aware that hearing health is brain health and help is available.” The longer you live with untreated hearing loss, the worse your brain health will become, and you may actually develop memory loss. When your auditory centers aren’t receiving sound stimulation, you’ll start to experience cell degradation or even cell death. Once these cells are destroyed, they can’t be restored, and your brain health will suffer. This rapid cognitive decline has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and soon the memory loss might change from being a sign of hearing loss to be a serious health concern.
Another way that hearing can affect memory is through social isolation. “People who can’t hear well have difficulty communicating and tend to withdraw from social activities as a way of coping,” says Dr. Vandermorris. “This can lead to isolation and loneliness, which can impact cognitive, physical and mental health.” Living with untreated hearing loss is bad for your brain, so the first step to looking after your brain health is to take care of your hearing health.
Treating Hearing Loss
Sadly, only 20% of those who need hearing aids actually wear them! If you’re struggling to hear, and decide to avoid treating your hearing loss, you could be risking far more than just your hearing. If you think your partner has hearing loss, encourage them to treat their hearing loss and get hearing devices. After all, they’ll never remember something if they didn’t hear it properly in the first place.
Not only that, but when someone is straining to hear, all the energy and attention goes towards simply trying to hear what’s been said. There’s very little brain power left over to actually understand what’s been said, or make sense of the words they did hear. Memory is also affected, and those with hearing loss have a harder time making memories since the brain doesn’t have enough energy to store what you heard as long term memories.
Fidelity Hearing Center
Hearing loss is the third most common health concern among older Americans, affecting nearly 40 million people. Fifty percent of those over the age of 75 have hearing loss, and many of these seniors seem to have the signs of memory loss. Before you worry that your loved one has dementia, encourage them to get a hearing test. At Fidelity Hearing Center we’ll perform a comprehensive hearing test and suggest the perfect hearing device that will have your loved one hearing like never before. You might be surprised that their symptoms of memory loss will disappear!