Dementia is a devastating diagnosis for patients and their family. Unfortunately, most people in Canada have been affected by dementia, whether directly through a family member or through someone that they know.
There are over half a million Canadians living with dementia, according to Alzheimer Society Canada, with around 25,000 new cases diagnosed every year. It’s estimated that by 2031, that number will rise by 66 percent to 937,000.
Dementia can be caused by a variety of reasons, but did you know that hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive issues?
What is dementia?
As defined by the World Health Organization, “dementia is a syndrome – usually of a chronic or progressive nature – in which there is deterioration in cognitive function (the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from normal ageing.”
Dementia, which is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide, has a negative impact on a person’s memory, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, judgement, orientation and thinking.
It is caused by a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain. Alzeimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and may contribute to around 60 to 70 percent of cases.
What is the link between hearing loss and dementia?
At first glance, hearing loss and dementia would appear to have no correlation whatsoever. However, a number of studies have found evidence suggesting that people who suffer from hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia.
In a study that tracked 639 adults for nearly 12 years, Johns Hopkins University expert Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D, and his colleagues found that people with a severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia.
Meanwhile, the study found that moderate hearing loss tripled dementia risk and mild hearing loss doubled the risk.
The studies show a clear link between hearing loss and dementia, however there’s still no evidence that suggests hearing loss causes dementia. Scientists have a few theories on why the two are linked.
These theories include:
- the faster rate of brain shrinkage linked with hearing loss; the increased likelihood that those hearing-impaired people will experience social isolation;
- and the fact that the brains of hearing loss sufferers have to work far harder to make sense of conversations.
“Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain,” Lin says. “Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia.”
When should you get your hearing checked?
While the link between hearing loss and dementia is still unknown, it’s believed that finding solutions to hearing loss, such as wearing hearing aids, can delay or even prevent the onset of dementia by improving a person’s hearing.
Hearing aids do not just improve a person’s ability to hear. They will significantly enhance their mental wellbeing as well. Hearing aids will improve a person’s quality of life by improving their mental ability, help them to build stronger relationships, reduce stress and much more.
Unfortunately, most people ignore the signs of hearing loss. In fact, the Hearing Foundation of Canada has found that more than 80 percent of hearing-impaired Canadians do not use hearing aids to minimize the impact of hearing loss.
If you believe that you, or perhaps a family member, is suffering from hearing loss it’s important to get tested by a professional hearing expert (such as York Hearing Clinic) as soon as possible.
The faster you can get diagnosed with hearing loss, the quicker a solution can be designed for you.
Do you live in Ontario, Canada, and want to get your hearing tested by a hearing professional? Contact us today. Our team of hearing specialists would love to have a conversation with you, and answer any questions you have.