One may not be commonly associated with the other, but hearing loss and dementia often go hand-in-hand. In fact, research shows that dementia is more common among those with untreated hearing loss. Other facts:
- Folks with untreated hearing loss experience cognitive decline earlier than those with normal hearing.
- People with hearing loss that has gone untreated report more concerns about their memory.
Studies have found an association between untreated hearing loss, Alzheimer's disease, and other types of dementia. That means that people with hearing loss could be more likely to develop cognitive issues than people who do not have hearing loss. However, this is an area of research with unanswered questions. For example, no one knows if hearing loss causes dementia or vice versa.
Researchers are also not sure if hearing aids can prevent or reverse the decline. However, experts in the field hope studies over the next several years will provide more answers.
It's important not to assume that your loved one has dementia if they're having trouble understanding speech or finding it exhausting to have simple conversations - hearing loss has some of the same symptoms as cognitive impairment.
If your loved one does have confirmed hearing loss, studies show that they are at higher risk of developing dementia. Whether they are still living on their own, are being cared for by family, or are living in a nursing community, it's crucial they take preventative steps:
- Make healthy lifestyle choices
- Take medications as recommended
- Wear a hearing aid or similar device
- Stay active
Hearing aids may not always be the best solution for your loved one. They may be too loose or small for your loved one's ear, causing more aggravation than ease. They also require fresh batteries and cleaning regularly. Another alternative is assistive listening devices, sometimes called hearing amplifiers.
With an amplifier, the person experiencing hearing loss can clip a small microphone to their shirt attached to headphones. The device also usually has large buttons so the user can easily adjust the volume. Seniors communities often invest in these devices for those residents whose insurance doesn't cover hearing aids. They proved to be very useful during the pandemic, so staff could hold meetings or events while being socially distanced.
It can be exhausting and highly frustrating to a person experiencing hearing loss; it's best to address the issue right away, whether it's through hearing aids or assistive devices.
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