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Our sense of hearing works overtime to help us live a full and vibrant life. It engenders connection with the outside world, both our close, loved ones and the auxiliary people around us.
But protecting our hearing health can do so much more, impacting many realms of our lives. From mobility to emotional health with many stops in between, we even find a connection between hearing loss and developing cognitive issues later in life.
This September, add ‘Schedule a Hearing Test’ to your to-do list.
What causes hearing loss?
While hearing loss can be caused by a variety of issues, including genetics and exposure to excessive noise, the leading predictor of hearing loss is age, with one-third of Americans over the age of 65 living with the condition. As we grow older, we begin to see a decline in the sensitive cells of the inner ear. These cells are the foundation of our sense of hearing. It is here that sound is collected from the world around us and transmuted into sound information in the form of electrical signals. These signals are transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve, where much of what we perceive as ‘hearing’ happens in our brain’s processing centers.
Over time, these cells continue to decay and we lose access to all the sounds around us, simply because we have less cells to receive them. We send less information to the brain and we experience these gaps in information as hearing loss.
Symptoms of hearing loss
Because we lose those important inner ear cells slowly, it can be difficult to notice that our sense of hearing has been compromised. The initial symptoms are extremely subtle and typically show up first as problems with speech clarity. It might begin to seem as if everyone is always mumbling and you begin asking “what?’ much more often in conversation.
You might also have particular trouble with talking on the telephone or speaking to others in a large group with distracting background noise. As conversation becomes frustrating, our behaviors change, often subconsciously. It’s not unusual for friends and family to notice these changes before we do.
More about dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
A fascinating connection that hearing loss and Alzheimer’s Disease share is that people wrongly accept both as a natural part of aging. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Each September, stakeholders and interested members of the public all take part in an effort to spread awareness and hope around the shared concern of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dementia is not a disease in and of itself, rather its a classification of diseases where we see abnormal brain changes that impact cognitive processes. A person’s thinking skills decline and they begin to have trouble with memory and reasoning. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and accounts for between 60 and 80 percent of dementia cases.
The link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s
We know that hearing loss increases the risk of dementia, though scientists are unclear on the exact reason. Theories about the link include a shared pathology or that hearing loss overtaxes the brain to the point that they are vulnerable to dementia. Some people believe it is the isolation that often accompanies hearing loss which increases the risk of dementia.
Regardless of the cause, the link between the two issues is strong. Even mild hearing loss doubles the risk of a dementia diagnosis down the road.
Hearing aids lower your risk of cognitive issues
A 2020 report by the Lancet Commission gave guidance on 12 modifiable risk factors in regards to dementia. Included yet again in this updated edition of their 2017 recommendations was to treat hearing loss in order to reduce the risk of future dementia cases. They estimate that by addressing these factors, we can prevent or delay nearly half of all dementia diagnoses worldwide.
Schedule a hearing test today
The best cure continues to be prevention. Prioritizing your hearing health today can help to alleviate the burden of unacknowledged hearing loss down the road. Schedule a hearing consultation with our team today. We’ll guide you through the simple process of a hearing exam and explain your diagnosis. Hearing loss is often irreversible but highly treatable, with many proven interventions available, including the one that is right for you.