Hearing Loss & Dementia: Stay Social

Many of us use our hearing to connect with the world and the people around us. Often, it is through our personal connections that we assign meaning to various aspects of life – joy, laughter, happiness, sadness, support, growth, and so on. So, what happens when hearing loss starts to control how we interact? We might spend more time asking for repetition, we might completely disconnect from the conversation, or we might avoid social situations all together. Although it may seem inconsequential, hearing loss and withdrawal from social interactions can have a much deeper impact than just missing dinner with friends1-3.

Just like a muscle, our brain needs to be exercised to stay strong and healthy. We can do this through memory tasks and learning, and social situations are great opportunities to do this. Whether it’s a new situation with new people or a familiar situation with good friends, your brain is required to think and remember things. Even remembering seemingly small things helps our brain stay strong because we use our memory and cognition to be involved. If we avoid these situations because of hearing loss, we have less reason to remember small bits of information, which reduces your cognitive load and increases the risk for declining cognitive function1,2.

Both hearing loss and dementia are extremely complicated and cannot be reduced to one cause or one symptom that results in correlation. What we do know is our brain needs input to stay healthy, so keeping your ears and hearing as strong as possible will benefit you long term4.

References:

  1. Lin FR, Yaffe K, Xia J, Zue QL, Harris TB, et al. (2013). Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline Among Older Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 173(4). doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1868.
  2. Thomason RS, Auduong P, Miller AT, Gurgel RK. (2017). Hearing Loss as a Risk Factor for Dementia: A Systematic Review. Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology. 2. doi: 10.1002/lio2.65
  3. Ford AH, Hankey GJ, Yeap BB, Golledge J, Flicker L, Almeida OP. (2018). Hearing loss and the Risk of Dementia in Later Life. Maturitas 112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2018.03.004
  4. Livingston G, Sommerlad A, Orgeta V, Costafreda SG, Huntley J, et al. (2017). Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care. Lancet. 390(2673). doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31363-6

 

 

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