Do you have trouble hearing people speak in a crowded room? Do you continually increase the volume on the television despite the protest of others? If this sounds like you, then it’s time to get your ears checked out. Hearing loss is a big health problem among older adults. Treating it has big health benefits in addition to improved hearing.
Scientists have determined that hearing loss is a modifiable risk factor for dementia. Treating your hearing loss may be one way to reduce your risk for dementia. According to Lin, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, the connection between hearing loss and dementia may come from these three things:
- It’s hard to join in conversations or be social with others when you can’t hear. Therefore, people with hearing loss tend to feel isolated. Some research has shown a link between feeling lonely or isolated and dementia. So hearing loss may make mental decline happen faster than it would otherwise.
- Your brain has to work harder to process sound if you don’t hear well. That may take away resources that it could use for other important activities.
- If your ears can no longer pick up on as many sounds, your hearing nerves will send fewer signals to your brain. As a result, the brain declines.
Hearing loss is a gradual process so not all people know they have a problem. Others may refuse to acknowledge the problem because they want to avoid the stigma of wearing hearing aids. The hope is that the more people understand the connection between hearing loss and dementia, the more likely they will have their hearing screened.
The screening tests are easy. You will wear an earphone and listen, one ear at a time, to short tones, played at different volumes and pitches. The test will discern whether or not you can hear high-pitched or low-pitched sounds, quiet or loud sounds and will determine which ear sustains hearing loss. During some hearing tests, you may also be asked to listen to speech at different volumes. The voices will speak softly and you will have to repeat what words were just said.
It is a simple and painless test, and if you have hearing loss, it is a simple and painless intervention. What else can make such a difference in your quality of life and reduce your risk of dementia at the same time? What you should remember is hearing health is brain health. Perhaps its time to ask your doctor about a hearing test.