Dementia and Untreated Hearing Loss

Dementia and Untreated Hearing Loss

Parties can be a struggle for a hearing aid user such as myself. Even the best hearing aids in the world cannot compete with the combined effects of loud music and crowds of people. When I struggle to decode conversation at parties, that’s when physical fatigue sets in.

Why do I suddenly feel tired in places of noise? It’s because of the connection between the brain and the ears. We tend to think about our ears when we think about hearing loss. However, listening is as much about our brains as it is our ears. Of course, our ears play an enormous role in hearing, but the majority of sound recognition and auditory processing takes place in our brains. Our brains find it tough to identify sounds and speech when we suffer from hearing loss.

The link between hearing loss and dementia

In turn, those with chronic hearing loss are at higher risk of dementia. This association has been found in several recent studies. Although research is ongoing, there are three possible explanations for the association between hearing loss and dementia.

The first is social isolation. Recent studies have shown that perceived isolation, or loneliness, is more important than objective isolation in predicting a variety of adverse health outcomes. This is definitely the experience of the individual with hearing loss at big social occasions. Although they are surrounded by people, they feel more isolated than ever. And social isolation has long been linked to dementia.

Another possibility is cognitive load. Untreated hearing loss provides jumbled sound signals to our brains that push our brains to work harder than they should on listening comprehension. This removes resources from other areas of the brain. This heavy cognitive load could also be the key to that leads to dementia.

A third connection is brain shrinkage. When the part of the brain responsible for hearing is impaired, it can lead to tissue loss and changes in brain structure, as it is no longer being used by the brain. Recent research has shown that the brains of people with hearing loss shrink— or atrophy — faster than people with normal hearing brains.

How hearing aids can help

You provide your brain with clearer sound signals by treating hearing loss with hearing aids, allowing it to evenly distribute its resources to different areas that require attention, such as your balance and memory. In addition, treating hearing loss means you can maintain bonds with your friends and loved ones. This means you are less likely to experience social isolation, in turn reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia developing.

What about those with hearing loss who already have dementia?

Those with dementia and hearing loss will still benefit greatly from the use of hearing aids, but some unique challenges must be overcome before benefits can be achieved.

Every hearing aid user must program their hearing aids properly with the audiologist to get the most out of them. This usually involves 3-4 office visits to achieve the best fit and sound quality. But they will need help from a caregiver to make it to the hearing clinic for this reprogramming. The latter stage adds an extra layer of logistics that can be a burden on any caregiver.

A remote option

There is, however, another option in TeleCare. This is an umbrella term to describe the provision of hearing healthcare services remotely. Hearing care providers such as ourselves can reach out to patients via TeleCare, eliminate barriers make technology improvements to hearing aids, enhance user satisfaction, and help prevent patients from having to travel or being transported to receive quality hearing-related care.

It can be particularly useful for the caregiver of a hearing aid user with dementia. In a recent study, TeleCare’s use for new users of hearing aids heightened awareness, improved benefits for several different sound environments, and reduced the stress that carers felt when providing care to the hearing aid patient.

Audiology Concierge Network

If you’re looking for a more convenient hearing care service, why not contact a provider with Audiology Concierge Network? Our providers can come and visit you in your home and can perform remote programming for your devices. Contact us today to find out more.