Hearing Loss and Dementia

Posted on: October 21, 2014 | 0 Comments |

Hearing loss is a significant issue for those suffering from dementia. New studies have shown that hearing loss can even accelerate the progression of dementia. Joan McKechnie of Hearing Direct was kind enough to offer this article for our readers. For more information please contact www.hearingdirect.com or check them out on facebook at www.facebook/hearingdirect. Enjoy – the DSG team.

Hearing loss can affect people from all walks of life, but seniors are at a higher risk as most hearing loss is age-related. Figures released by the national MarkeTrak VIII survey estimate the number of hard of hearing individuals in the US at 35 million and further projected that the number would grow to 53 million by the year 2053. In the US as in other western countries the most common reasons for hearing loss are linked with age-related changes that the body undergoes and noise-induced trauma. Recent research has found that left unmanaged, hearing loss can accelerate the rate of progression for Dementia.

What Causes Age-Related Hearing Loss

Our ability to hear, see and smell is based on a mechanism that allows the capture of triggers that are than translated by the brain. When the journey of these triggers is interrupted at any point sensory impairment can occur.

In the case of hearing, these triggers take the from of waves of sound and vibrations at different frequencies that travel through the air before making their way to the brain by means of the auditory nerve. Their journey takes them through three parts of the ear; the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The inner ear consists of a shell like spiral organ called the Cochlea. The Cochlea contains over 15,000 tiny haircells that are tasked with capturing sounds and converting these into nerve pulses that make their way to the brain.

As the body matures these tiny haircells dwindle or deteriorate in quality and hearing loss can occur. It is a natural process that can happen from an early age, though more common in the over 65’s. As the body is unable to regrow the tiny haircells the condition will not improve on its own.

Symptoms Of Age-Related Hearing Loss
The level of hearing loss may vary from one person to the next based on medical conditions, exposure to loud noise over the years (noise-induced hearing loss), family history and the amount and severity of degrading haircells within the Cochlea. Symptoms can include difficulty in hearing people around you within noisy environments. Background noise may seem far too loud compared to the actual speech.
You may also notice:
● Sounds seem less clear
● Not being able to hear the telephone of door bell ring when others can
● Other people may sound mumbled or slurred
● Inability to hear high-pitched sounds such as “s” and “th”
● Often having to ask people to repeat themselves
● Having the television or radio turned up much higher than other family members
● Feeling tired after participating in a conversation held within background noise
The Danger Of Unmanaged Hearing Loss

In the past it was usually assumed that not doing anything about a hearing loss unmanaged would have a negative impact on quality of life in terms of some social interactions and listening to music and television but that there wouldn’t be anything else more complicated to consider. We now know however, thanks to research by Johns Hopkins and Harvard, that unmanaged hearing loss can have far reaching effects on an individual’s mental health and bring about the progression of dementia. It is the relationship between reduced auditory stimuli and patterns of reclusiveness that is causing concern.

Managing Age-Related Hearing Loss

As with any medical condition, your first point of call is to seek medical diagnosis from a health provider. In this case it will take the shape of a hearing test. The test will normally take the shape of pure tone based test and may include a speech-in-noise check that uses different types of background noise. A hearing test is available to book from your local hearing center and from your family doctor (in its basic form). Once the precise cause and level of hearing loss is determined you will be offered a number of options that work on the principal of managing the condition using modern digital means.

The most common are hearing aids, a group of microcomputers that fit inside or outside the wearer’s ear and are tasked with amplifying external sound. Another group comprise of daily devices that have been adopted for use by the hard of hearing. Examples include amplified phones as well as cell phones, amplified alarms and aids designed to amplify the sound of a TV unit. Relief often comes from using a number of aids as each is slightly better suited for a particular situation.

Information written by Joan McKechnie BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology. Joan works for UK based Hearing Direct. In addition to her role as a company audiologist, Joan helps maintain an information blog on hearing loss.

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