Did you know that the loss of hearing is closely associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease? In addition, studies have found that there are links between loss of hearing and the most common form of dementia that afflicts our seniors.
What the Statistics Say
Scientists have found that as a person’s hearing impairment worsens, the chances of developing dementia are higher. People with mild hearing loss are likelier to develop dementia within the next ten years by two times. Moderate hearing loss seems to cause the risk of dementia by three times. Severe hearing loss increases the risk five times.
Furthermore, hearing loss is not only associated with a higher risk of mental decline. The disability is also considered a factor for a faster cognitive decline. People who have hearing loss develop dementia 30% to 40% faster than people with normal hearing.
While scientists have not found definite links between loss of hearing and the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, theories abound on the subject.
Dr. Frank Lin, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University, identified three potential connections between the two ailments.
What are the Links Between Loss of Hearing and Alzheimer’s Disease?
Dr. Lin theorized three possible connections between hearing disabilities and dementia.
The Social Link
The first link we will examine is the social link. According to Dr. Lin, the lack of social connections is a significant factor in the development of dementia. And since hearing is perhaps the most important of the five senses when it comes to human socialization, the loss of it can have profound repercussions on our cognitive capabilities.
This theory makes sense. Isolation and loneliness are closely associated with the development of dementia. isolation raises the risk of developing dementia by 50%. Our understanding of hearing is vital in making and maintaining connections with others. The loss of hearing can seriously injure our capabilities of conversation and socialization.
When a person loses their sense of hearing, they may feel cut off from the world. They feel lonely and isolated. The human brain is in control of the many functions of the body, including speech and hearing. Losing those aspects of the mind can hurt the brain, causing irreversible damage.
The Brainpower Link
The brain is a very powerful computer, but it has its limits. It has limited resources and limited energy levels. The brains of people with mild hearing loss have to exert more effort in making sense of auditory cues. The cues are unclear because the person can’t hear well. And if the brain has to exert more effort, it can deplete its resources faster.
The neurons within the brain are responsible for restoring memories and processing sensory cues from various sources like the skin, the eyes, the tongue, the nose, and of course, the ears. If the neurons have to work harder to make sense of the auditory signals (signals picked up by the ear), they have to tire the other resources of the brain.
Suppose the brain has to allot more energy and resources on understanding auditory cues. In that case, it may not have enough to perform its other tasks such as logical thinking, decision making, proper speech forming, and more. As a result, some of the most common symptoms of dementia are the inability to think, remember, or speak.
Theoretically speaking, hearing loss tires out the brain, causing it to fail in doing some of the most basic tasks.
The Shrinking Brain Link
The last theory from Dr. Frank Lin that we will examine is how the brain might shrink due to hearing loss. This theory suggests that the loss of hearing causes fewer auditory signals to go to the brain. In turn, some of the neurons are not in use. The neuron’s uselessness results in brain atrophy, the process of deterioration due to lack of use.
And guess what, it is a perfectly sensible theory. The brain cells atrophy when they are not in use. And this brain atrophy is a significant symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
When the brain is not using its neurons, the neurons responsible for auditory processing cues deteriorate. In turn, the brain sort of shrinks. It results in the rapid development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies back this theory strongly. Hearing deprivation causes the brain to atrophy and shrink. No wonder people with hearing loss develop dementia faster.
Are There Any Solutions to the Problem?
Although there are no studies that support any proposed solution to the problem, experts see the connection between using hearing aids and the prevention of increased risk in developing Alzheimer’s disease.
And by just looking at all the data, hearing aids SHOULD be helpful. Hearing aids help people with hearing loss reconnect to others and help them socialize. Hearing aids make auditory cues clearer so that the brain does not have to exert more effort understanding those cues. And hearing aids keep the neurons active because now those neurons have auditory signals to process.
In short, hearing aids help combat all the potential links between hearing loss and the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
How Can Family Members Help Seniors with Hearing Problems Prevent the Development of Dementia?
As impressive as hearing aids are in helping prevent dementia among seniors with hearing loss, they are not the perfect answer.
Even with hearing aids, seniors can still feel isolated if they have nobody to socialize with; isolation is still a significant contributor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia among seniors.
Infinite Love Homecare is a strong advocate of taking care of seniors physically and mentally and emotionally. We believe in providing mental and emotional support to seniors to enjoy the final chapters of their lives. We at Infinite Love Homecare strongly suggest the involvement of family in the care of seniors.
Communication, love, and mental and emotional connections are priorities we value. It is why one of our core services is companionship. Infinite Love Homecare believes that seniors need as many human connections as anyone else. Contact Infinite Love Homecare today to get the best companionship services available in Orange County, California.