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Dementia and Hearing Loss
Dementia is one of those words that at once pulls the strings of one’s heart while also striking fear in the back of one’s mind. The sadness of a loved one unable to always remember a name and the concern that that will one day be you are feelings that many have faced, and do face, daily. Around 50 million people around the world currently have dementia, and that figure is likely to triple in just 30 years’ time.1 Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done for dementia and Alzheimer’s once the cognitive loss has set in.2 Because of this, preventative measures are looked at as an alternative. There are quite a few aspects of life that can be altered to reduce the risk, and maybe push back the onset, and hearing loss is the most significant risk factor that can be modified to help manage the risk.1,3
Hearing loss comes with many obstacles which should be managed to improve life and retain cognitive function. When one loses their hearing, they tend to stop doing hearing related activities and withdraw from public interaction, and this causes the brain to be used less, and even results in depression. Social isolation, physical inactivity and depression are all major modifiable issues when managing risk for dementia, and managing hearing loss is the most consequential, possibly reducing risks by up to 9%, especially when addressed in midlife, ages 45-65.
In the last article review it was noted that putting off treatment of hearing loss could costs one up to, and exceeding, $22,000 on extra healthcare costs over 10 years4, but not seeking help for your hearing health could result in an even greater threat: cognitive loss leading to dementia. Consult your doctor and have regular hearing exams to help manage your loss and those difficulties accompanying it. Hearing loss affects more than just you, and it is more than just not hearing every word someone says. Be proactive in your health care and seek treatment as soon as possible.
References 1. Untreated Hearing Loss is a Potentially Modifiable Midlife Dementia Risk Factor. (2020, January). Audiology Practices, 12,1 2. What is Dementia. Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia 3. Livingston, Gill MD, et al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. (2017, December 16). The Lancet Commissions, 390,10113, pg. 2673-2734. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31363-6. Retrieved from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)31363-6/fulltext 4. Reed NS, Altan A, Deal JA, et al. Trends in Health Care Costs and Utilization Associated With Untreated Hearing Loss Over 10 Years. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019;145(1):27–34. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.2875