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Hearing loss and dementia are two separate problems that are often associated with aging, and they actually share a bigger connection than many people realize. Although people can – and frequently do – have dementia without hearing loss, research shows that hearing loss can definitely contribute to a person’s mental decline.
Many cases of dementia in the elderly are irreversible, but cases that are tied to hearing loss can be slowed down with the right hearing aid. What constitutes the “right” hearing aid will vary from one person to the next, but an audiologist can help determine the degree of hearing loss and prescribe the hearing solution that works best for their unique situation.
The prevalence of hearing loss doubles for every decade of a person’s life, and it’s too often treated as an inevitability in the elderly. Since dementia can be caused by any number of things, any connection it had with hearing loss was frequently ignored by doctors. That attitude seems to be changing now that research shows that as much as 36 percent of dementia risk can be attributed to hearing loss.
The connection between hearing loss and dementia is technically not difficult to discern. People use their hearing to interact with the world around them, often more than they use any of their other senses. An elderly person who is retired and may not spend a lot of time out with others might already start to be socially withdrawn. When that is combined with the inability to hear someone in conversation, listen to music or do anything else that would stimulate them mentally, it often worsens signs of dementia.
Things can also be difficult for those who remain socially active while living with hearing loss. When everything you hear sounds garbled and is difficult to understand, you have to concentrate harder on what you are hearing. For those who have the beginnings of dementia, this can overtax the brain.
Since hearing loss is more closely tied to dementia than people realize, the powerful features in the Oticon Opn can reduce the risk of dementia. Using the Opn can help the user be more aware of their surroundings, communicate much more easily with others and reduce the strain that comes with trying to follow a conversation.
Hearing loss may not be the main cause for dementia, but it can certainly contribute to a person’s mental decline. If you have a loved one who is showing signs of dementia, have them consult with a doctor about their hearing. Providing them with the right hearing aid could be what they need to remain active, aware and alert as they age.