The leading cause of preventable hearing loss is noise exposure. While hearing loss from aging, called presbycusis, cannot be prevented, hearing is a sense worth protecting from noise.
Estimates indicate that two-thirds of people over the age of 70 have hearing impairment significant enough to cause communication challenges. However, hearing loss does not simply impact the elderly. Professionals are seeing more and more young adults and teenagers with the onset of noise-induced hearing loss.
There are growing amounts of evidence supporting the correlation between hearing loss and memory loss or dementia. While hearing loss does not cause dementia, the two conditions are certainly intertwined. Many of us simply attribute hearing loss and trouble remembering things with growing old, but studies show that mild, moderate and severe hearing loss lead to two-fold, three-fold and five-fold increases, respectively, in dementia. While the exact causes of this correlation remain unclear, researchers have studied several theories.
Increases in hearing loss tend to cause people to withdraw from social engagements, leading to a more isolated lifestyle. Reduced auditory input to the brain causes changes in the structure and function of those areas of the brain. Communicating with a hearing impairment increases the mental effort put forth by your brain. This means that you are using other skills to complete the voids. These skills include lip reading and noting contextual cues, syntax and grammatical information.
While we do not yet know whether treating hearing loss with hearing aids and cochlear implants has the ability to delay memory loss, doing so is low risk. Furthermore, treating the hearing loss is beneficial in reducing social isolation and the cognitive load required for successful communication. As our population continues to age, the prevalence of dementia is expected to double every 20 years. Although the role hearing loss plays in the onset of dementia is not entirely clear, we know it does play a role.
Preventing and treating hearing loss poses virtually no risk, and in exchange, individuals could experience potential cognitive benefits. Moral of the story? Be proactive in prevention and treatment of hearing loss.
If you would like more information on hearing technology as treatment of hearing loss, contact us by phone at 602.277.4327 or by email at [email protected]