The correlation between hearing loss and dementia is not exactly clear. A study conducted by John Hopkins University School of Medicine and The National Institute on Aging showed a possible relationship between hearing loss and cognitive skills for older people. The study found that individuals who face severe hearing loss are five times more likely to see a cogative decline as they grow older. This is just one reason a hearing test is key when showing early signs of dementia and a hearing machine may be needed.
What the Study Means for Older People?
For decades, hearing loss has been dismissed as a sign of aging. The study by John Hopkins indicates it may actually be a contributing factor to dementia or a cause of decline. The research is not complete enough to decide there is a definite correlation, however. All this means is that getting a hearing test as you grow older makes sense – especially if at risk or showing signs of dementia. You may require a hearing aid.
Why Hearing would Matter
People do not appreciate senses like hearing until they lose them. The researchers from John Hopkins suggest that the stress of trying to adjust to hearing loss may be a factor in dementia. Trying to decode conversations, for example, can stress the brain. This added strain may be part of the progress.
Hearing loss can be very disorienting, as well, and often subtle. A person losing their hearing may not even realize there is a problem. As the ability to hear subsides, it becomes difficult to tell where sounds come from and what people are saying. It may seem like an older person is not remembering well or gets confused, but the truth may be they did not hear what they were supposed to remember. This can lead to false positives on tests to check memory or cause family members to make the wrong conclusion about an older person.
Ways to Help
The first step is to encourage an older person to get a hearing test, especially in the early stages of dementia. Not everyone is willing to accept there is a problem or a need for a test. It is important to sit down and discuss the test with your loved one, so he or she understands why it is necessary. Be patient and stay with them at the testing site for support.
You can ease the stress that comes with problematic hearing, as well. Include the older person in conversations. Do not just assume they understand what is going on while talking. Be patient and speak slow and clear. Keep the background noise to a minimum and talk where the lighting is good.
The most critical thing you can do as part of an older person's support team is to schedule a hearing test. Hearing devices ease the added work put on the brain and may slow the progress of dementia. They will certainly improve the quality of life for this person. Better hearing helps caregivers gauge how well treatments are working too. The signs of hearing loss and dementia are similar in many ways.
Living with chronic hearing problems stresses the brain and may increase the risk of dementia. It also makes life more difficult for someone who may be experiencing this condition. A hearing test should be part of the treatment plan for anyone in the early stages.