Can Regular hearing tests reduce the risk of dementia?

Over the past three decades, more and more research has turned to the link between hearing loss and dementia. Initially, much of the research was ignored, but now, with the evidence mounting up, it is important to understand how untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of developing and worsening dementia.

 It is also vital for the population at large to understand that regular hearing tests, as with regular vision tests, should be undertaken.

This will ensure the early identification of treatable hearing loss, keeping the risk of dementia in check. Hearing loss is seen as the “largest modifiable risk factor for age-related dementia” but we can only modify this risk if we know that hearing loss exists.

Fitting hearing devices is part of a hearing care rehabilitation program for this modifiable risk.

In Australia, statistics show that dementia is now the second most likely condition to cause death.

This is a frightening indicator, and it is now widely understood that if you have untreated hearing loss, you may be more likely to develop dementia.

With almost half a million Australians suffering with dementia, this is a significant health issue with current estimates indicate this figure will likely double by the middle of this century. The majority of the burden of caring for people with dementia is in aged care facilities with fifty percent of residents diagnosed with some form of dementia.

It is also worthwhile to note that the dementia health issue comes with enormous economic effects across the world, including Australia.

Right now, if you are over sixty-five years of age, you have a one in ten chance of having dementia. This alone costs the country’s economy over fifteen billion dollars.

However, there are many benefits to be gained by reducing the effects of dementia with hearing loss rehabilitation through hearing aids. Not only may early intervention with the fitting of hearing devices reduce the risk of dementia but it will increase quality of life by reducing the symptoms of dementia and hearing impairment, such as depression and isolation.

This in turn will reduce the global economic burden of hearing loss and dementia.

The cost-benefit of fitting hearing aids to reduce dementia symptoms is a positive one. Add to this, the research that shows people who receive rehabilitative treatment for their hearing loss with hearing devices is the way forward to slow the forecast increase in dementia cases.

Quality of life

Ageing should not equate to a poorer quality of life.

The constant messaging is that as we get older we will experience ageing body systems with deteriorating movement, sight, hearing, memory, and cognition - among all the other ailments that can occur. However, this does not need to be the case, as many factors are in our own control.

We now know that hearing loss is a pivotal ‘modifiable factor’ in the control of dementia. Research has shown that when hearing loss is left untreated, it is more responsible for dementia than other risk factors such as high blood pressure, drinking too much, and being overweight.

Caring for your hearing will add to your quality of life in more ways than one. Firstly it will keep your hearing at its optimal best. Wearing hearing aids is not a sign of ageing – it’s a sign to your family and friends that you want to remain engaged and connected to those around you.

Much research has shown how hearing aids stave off depression and isolation, and now the evidence is overwhelming in regards to how hearing devices are helping fight dementia. This is most noticeable in the forty to sixty-five age group, with studies confirming that hearing devices provide the single biggest positive impact on this ‘modifiable risk factor’ of dementia.

The World Health Organisation recently released its ‘World Report on Hearing’, concurring with these findings.

All factors point to how hearing loss, when treated early with hearing devices will have a positive impact on brain cognition, not only helping you hear better but reduce the risk of dementia.

A long-lived life that has quality and connection is something we can all aim for. You can do this by having regular hearing tests and, if a hearing deterioration is detected, get treatment. Hearing care, with hearing devices, should not be delayed.

Take care of your hearing to help modify your risk of getting dementia and increase your quality of life.

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