Trying to keep your brain fit with crossword puzzles, brain teasers, and memory builders? Experts on brain health suggest that getting your hearing checked might be a better approach. For people with hearing loss, a solution as simple as wearing hearing aids can significantly reduce the risk of cognitive decline associated with hearing loss1.
Hearing loss and dementia
A recent study found that hearing loss is the biggest modifiable risk factor for developing dementia later in life2 (2). Untreated hearing loss significantly increases your risk of developing dementia by 9%. That’s greater than quitting smoking (5%), getting treatment for depression (4%) and exercising more (3%).
The connection between hearing loss and dementia is quite simple; when hearing loss is left untreated, conversations become more difficult, and you may begin to withdraw from social situations which in turn can cause isolation and mental decline. Many people begin to experience feelings of frustration during parties and dinners, so they begin to decline invitations to such gatherings. Background noise at restaurants makes it difficult to enjoy outings with friends. Over time, the challenge of coping with everyday communication can take its toll. You are more likely to experience feelings of depression and opt out of leisure and work activities that you used to enjoy. The social isolation and resulting loneliness increase your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease3.
Hearing aids reduce your risk of cognitive decline
Wearing hearing aids can help to slow the effects of aging on the brain. A cognitive study on middle age to elderly adults found that hearing aids can prevent the development of cognitive decline in later years. In fact, researchers found no difference in the rate of cognitive decline between people with no reported hearing loss and people with hearing loss who used hearing aids. In contrast, cognitive decline accelerates at a faster rate for people who have hearing loss and don’t use hearing aids.
A wake-up call
If you are among the 80% of adults who could benefit from hearing aids but don’t use them4, the link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline offers powerful motivation for you to take action. Hearing aids can restore your ability to communicate, so you can stay socially active and engage in other brain-stimulating activities. Since using hearing aids can restore your ability to communicate, you are more likely to engage in brain stimulating activities such as social events with friends and family. Our brains need exercise just like any muscle in our body. Social interaction is exercise for our brain, and it helps to keep our brains fit, thereby slowing down the cognitive decline associated with hearing loss.
Give the brain what it needs to hear
Hearing loss makes the brain work harder. When hearing is compromised, the sound signal that the brain is accustomed to processing is different. It requires more effort to fill in the gaps in conversation, which demonstrates why hearing loss can be draining as it demands a large amount of mental energy. Some hearing aids use modern hearing aid technology called BrainHearing™ technology, which is designed to carefully process speech so that it is presented to the brain as clearly and accurately as possible – in a way that the brain is best able to understand it. You hear better, with less effort, allowing you to actively participate in your favorite activities.
Schedule a free hearing check
Healthy hearing plays an important role in not only optimal cognitive function but in maintaining a high quality of life. If you think you may have symptoms of hearing loss or if you are experiencing hearing difficulty, don’t wait to consult a hearing care expert. Through us, you can schedule a free hearing test at your local participating hearing clinic. A hearing evaluation is simple and painless. If a hearing loss is detected, your hearing care expert can help you choose a hearing solution that works best for your hearing loss and your lifestyle. Learn more about what to expect when you schedule a hearing check here.
Hearing health is central to healthy aging. A combination of activities that keep you physically fit, intellectually challenged and socially engaged can also contribute to brain health and your overall well-being:
Get moving - Staying physically active can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, reduce stress and keep blood vessels healthy – all of which are factors linked to brain health .
Flex your mental muscle - Sign up for a class, master a new skill, take up a new hobby. Studies show that people who stay busy with activities they enjoy appear to experience less memory loss as they age .
Keep your cool - People who experience high levels of stress are two times more likely to become cognitively impaired . Look for ways to reduce the everyday stressors in your life. Meditate. Get plenty of sleep. Don’t underestimate the benefit of laughter as a stress reducer.
1. Hélène Amieva, “Self-Reported Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults:
A 25-year Study,” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
2. Livingston, et al (2017). Dementia presentation, intervention, and care. The Lancet, 17:31363-6.
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6097646/ and https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/neurosciences-articles/2017/october/research-shows-loneliness-poses-health-risk
4. McCormack A., Fortnum H. (2013) Why do people fitted with hearing aids not wear them? International Journal of Audiology 52: 360–36. doi:10.3109/14992027.2013.769066.