Hearing Loss and Dementia
Research into the links between hearing loss and dementia is growing and some research has reported that:
- The risk of getting dementia almost doubles if you have an untreated mild hearing loss
- With a moderate hearing loss, the risk of dementia triples
- With a severe untreated hearing loss you are five times more likely to develop dementia
It is not fully known why there is a link between dementia and hearing loss or what other factors may have an influence, but it is thought that wearing hearing aids sooner and more regularly could help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
How can wearing hearing aids help reduce my risk of dementia?
Some theories state that because hearing aids help you hear more clearly, less 'brain energy' is required to figure out what is being said and to hold a conversation. Because of the reduced listening effort, there is less 'strain' on the brain which means the brain has more 'energy' to fight off degenerative (weakening) changes in the brain which could go on to become dementia.
What causes dementia?
Dementia is caused by changes that happen in the brain causing certain pathways to become damaged. There are lots of reasons why people develop dementia and there are lots of different types of dementia too. For more information about dementia, visit the Alzheimer's Society website: www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia
Do I have a hearing loss?
Hearing usually changes very slowly over a long period of time. This means it can be difficult to tell that your hearing is not as good as it used to be, because your current hearing levels have become your new 'normal'.
If you have a mild or moderate hearing loss, you may find it difficult to fully follow conversation in noisy places, like in a café or restaurant. You may feel that you can miss certain words or sounds in conversation and find that your brain 'guesses' what has been said, which may not always be correct. Some people also find following programmes on the television difficult, especially if the programme has music in the background or sound effects.
If you feel your hearing may not be as good as it used to be, it might be a good idea to see your General Practitioner (GP) an get referred to your local Audiology department for a hearing check.
What support is available for me or someone with dementia I care for?
There are lots of resources and support available for those who have dementia and people who care for them.
There are groups and events such as cafes, social groups and choirs that run across Leeds for those living with dementia and their carers.
If you need help with caring for someone with dementia, please visit www.alzeimers.org.uk which will help you find the support you need.
The Alzheimer's Society runs and initiative called 'Dementia Friends'. Their website, www.dementiafriends.org.uk talks about what dementia is and how you can become a Dementia Friend: someone who learns about dementia so they can help their community. Dementia Friends help people by taking actions - both big and small.