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Hearing Loss and Dementia

Man with Hearing Loss

It has been revealed that if you have untreated hearing loss, you are at a greater risk of developing dementia in later life. The research is a breakthrough in the audiology world and it shows that one in three cases of dementia could be prevented if people book appointments with their audiologist. While there are nine other key risk factors thought to contribute to the risk of dementia, the fact that hearing loss is one of them is news.

The link between hearing loss and dementia

Hearing loss and dementia being linked may be news, but given that hearing loss is more common in the aged community, it is something that makes sense. The majority of the population with dementia are over the age of 70 and almost three-quarters of people over 70 also have hearing loss. Mild hearing loss has also been shown to double the risk of developing dementia, while moderate hearing loss is three times the risk and severe hearing loss has five times the risk. It’s also very common that hearing loss is misdiagnosed as dementia, or can make the symptoms of dementia appear to be far worse than they are.

Here are some common dementia symptoms:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Changes in communication

Here are some common hearing loss symptoms:

  • Difficulty understanding others
  • Asking people to repeat themselves or speak slowly
  • Difficulty with hearing the doorbell or the telephone

There is a difficulty in communicating with others with dementia, so it’s easy to misdiagnose hearing loss for dementia in the elderly community. The proper diagnosis for hearing loss with an audiologist can help to rule this out and reduce the risk and impact that dementia has, as well as helping the comorbidities such as depression and falls.

Reducing the risk

Dementia may be something that happens in later life, but the changes in the brain occur earlier than that and so it’s important that lifestyle factors in the early part of life are watched carefully. Living a healthy lifestyle without smoking and keeping blood pressure normal can help to reduce a later risk of dementia developing. Some changes in lifestyle will not make a difference, as some dementia risks are hereditary.

Hearing loss should be prevented as much as possible with regular appointments to a reputable audiologist. They will be able to provide tests to ascertain how bad the hearing loss is, what hearing support you need and how to prevent your hearing loss declining further.

If you have signs of hearing loss, don’t simply chalk them up to aging and live with it. Hearing loss can affect your life in a lot more ways than you anticipated and you need to have a conversation with your audiologist to ensure that you are staying in optimum health.