Untreated Hearing Loss and Dementia

by | Sep 23, 2022 | Hearing Loss

Why does untreated hearing loss matter so much?

One concerning aspect of hearing loss is its ability to creep up on people in an almost undetectable way. Though others around you might start to notice the signs of hearing loss, the gradual progression of hearing loss is such that many don’t even realize their hearing is diminishing until they’ve already started to lose their ability to perceive certain frequencies.

On top of that, hearing loss, for most people, anyhow, is a difficult reality to accept. Between an inability to detect that one’s hearing is worsening and the time it takes to become convinced that there’s actually a problem that needs attention, it can take the average person as long as seven years to address their hearing health. 

Seven years is a long time! There’s an awful lot that can happen, both good and bad, in seven years’ time that can mean the difference between placing yourself on a pathway to a lifetime of healthier healing vs. one of poor hearing, poor health, and feelings of isolation and depression. 

Hearing doesn’t happen in isolation

At Colorado Ear Care, our goal is to help everyone in our community live their lives with the best hearing possible for them. Healthy brain function is a huge part of ensuring that this is possible. 

You see, many people tend to think of hearing in isolation, as though hearing occurs solely in the ears. What they might not realize is that a large part of hearing actually occurs in the brain. 

The brain is where captured sounds are essentially processed and turned into information, an activity that happens so quickly that most of the time we don’t even need to think about it. 

When our hearing is healthy, our brains process and organize sounds rapidly — speech, environmental sounds, background noise, etc. — allowing us to focus on the sounds we want to hear while tuning out those sounds that we don’t. 

As our hearing declines, our brain works harder to hear

When we start losing certain sounds, our ability to process and organize information becomes that much harder. Our brain has to work harder. This once seemingly automatic process suddenly becomes exhausting. 

Let’s put it this way: Have you ever found yourself in a social situation, such as at a large gathering or a busy restaurant environment, and had difficulty hearing?

These situations can be particularly difficult because there are multiple conversations happening simultaneously, there’s often constant background noises coming from all directions, and you typically need to be extra alert in order to follow what’s happening — and that’s true even if you have healthy hearing!

For those folks who are experiencing hearing loss, their brains are working overtime in order to capture and process sounds. With cross conversations and distracting environmental sounds happening, it can be easy to lose track of the dialog happening.

Don’t let hearing loss push you into social isolation

The unfortunate reality is that people with hearing loss will find themselves either too exhausted to continue participating in these types of activities, or they might find themselves in situations where they’re embarrassed by not being able to actively participate in the conversation or misunderstand certain social cues. 

This is where things can often go awry, from a brain health perspective. 

Researchers believe that people with moderate to severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop some form of dementia. 

One reason for this, it is believed, is due to a phenomenon called auditory deprivation. In a nutshell, people who have started to lose their hearing will then avoid social situations, which in turn will expose them to even fewer sounds, sometimes causing the brain to atrophy due to a lack of sound processing.

In simple terms, your brain is a muscle that needs exercise in order to perform at its optimum levels. Avoiding sound-rich environments is actually the opposite of what you should do, but if you’re concerned about your or a loved one’s hearing, there are things that you can do in order to ensure you’re appropriately addressing those needs. 

Seek expert intervention to preserve your hearing

Early signs of age-related hearing loss is commonly detected in people as young as in their fifties, which is precisely when we recommend that you start getting your hearing tested on an annual basis. 

The earlier we can detect signs of hearing loss, the sooner we can develop a treatment plan that can address your unique loss, lifestyle, and hearing goals. 

But even if you’re well beyond your fifties, working with an audiologist is the best way to preserve the hearing you have, so that you can live a happier and healthier life for years to come. 

One way in which we can delay the effects of dementia is through the recommended use of properly fit hearing aids. 

Hearing aids, when fine tuned to address your specific hearing loss, can reintroduce you to a world of missing sounds, increase your confidence, and place you back into the social and emotional spaces that you’ve been longing to experience. 

There’s so much more that we can share with you about hearing loss, dementia, and how modern hearing technology just might be the key to getting you back to where you want to be. Please contact Colorado Ear Care TODAY to learn more! 

Talk with one of our friendly hearing and balance professionals today.