Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

It’s normal to be a little forgetful sometimes, especially as we age. From the first weeks of gestation, the brain is creating around 100 new neurons per minute, however by the time we reach 20 years old this process starts to slow down. By our 30s and 40s, our brains naturally start to shrink which grows more rapidly in our 60s. This is one reason why the risk of dementia significantly increases by the age of 65. 

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a grouping of neurodegenerative diseases that affects at least two functions of the brain, such as memory, reasoning, or the ability to carry out everyday tasks. Even with the high prevalence of dementia in people 65 years plus, it is not a normal sign of aging. There are lifestyle and active modifications we can incorporate into our daily life now to decrease the risk of dementia. One of these is addressing hearing loss.

Age-Related Hearing Loss

If you are part of the one percent of the population which lives to be 100 years old, you are guaranteed to have some hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis occurs due to natural changes in the ears as we age. This affects the transfer of sound from our ears to our brain, leaving many seniors with irreversible hearing loss. By the time people reach 65, there is a one in three chance they will have hearing loss and this number jumps to one in two once people surpass the age of 75. 

The Effects of Age-Related Hearing Loss

Hearing loss in seniors has several effects past the obvious struggles trying to hear. Many underestimate the importance of healthy hearing however the absence of it makes it difficult for older adults to follow conversations daily. This can cause isolation confusion and depression. 

Older Adults in the Workplace

It is normal for many to still be in the workforce at 65, especially if they feel passionate about their job. However, unaddressed hearing loss can make a healthy older adult feel confused, unable to hear important information, and ultimately less reliable in a working environment. This causes many older adults with hearing loss to lose confidence, miss out on professional opportunities and lead to early retirement or even loss of a job altogether. This also can affect personal relationships as well, leading to depression, social anxiety, and loneliness. As we age this can be particularly devastating as loneliness in older adults can increase the likeliness for cognitive decline, paving the way for dementia.

Hearing Loss and Cognitive Load

Experts have long suspected a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline. They theorize that this could be attributed to a reduction in sound information to the brain, which causes the brain to work harder to fill in the missing pieces. This increases the cognitive load on the brain and causes it to borrow energy from other areas of the brain. This can leave older adults feeling exhausted during even a short social interaction.

Hearing Loss and Social isolation

The strain on the brain makes it more likely for seniors to choose to isolate themselves rather than subject themselves to uncomfortable and exhausting social situations. However, this also can have a negative effect on brain health. The CDC reports that loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes daily or a sedentary lifestyle. When people isolate their brains are not challenged regularly leading to further issues. A lack of stimulation can impact brain cells. As dementia is caused by the death of brain tissue, regular stimulation of the brain should be a priority for a healthy and enriching aging process.

Addressing Hearing Loss

Addressing hearing loss is not just about benefiting your brain but keeping you engaged in everyday life. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids, which are programmed based on a hearing exam to amplify the specific sounds lost. When you commit to wearing hearing aids daily you can help your brain to relearn to hear sounds you may not have heard for decades. They can also help you keep up with conversations, stay engaged and find enjoyment in everyday social interactions again. To find out more about the benefits of addressing hearing loss and what treatment may be best for you, schedule a hearing exam with us today.