Guest article by EarQ
Today, 48 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss. Meanwhile, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, every 67 seconds. Now, new research is beginning to show that the two conditions have more in common than you may think.
When it comes to things like language processing, if you don’t use it, you lose it. This means that people with untreated hearing loss can slowly lose some of their ability to understand and process speech. This could be an explanation for why hearing loss has been strongly associated with dementia in older Americans. What’s more, those with untreated hearing loss have been shown to lose brain tissue faster than people who don’t have hearing loss.
However, there is good news. Studies have shown that using hearing aids to address hearing loss can help to curb these effects and slow the onslaught of cognitive decline and dementia.
Many people are hesitant to admit that they have hearing loss. And once they admit it, they often don’t want to use hearing aids because of negative social stigmas. This can pose a challenge to caregivers, as it can be difficult to persuade their loved one to take corrective action.
There are several signs you can lookout for in order to tell if your loved one might have hearing loss:
- Turns the television or phone volume up louder than you typically do.
- Often asks people to repeat themselves.
- Has trouble understanding young children or people with higher-pitched voices.
- Sometimes seems more withdrawn from social settings than before.
If you feel that your loved one might have hearing loss, there are a handful of techniques you can use that might help you to guide them toward the decision to get their hearing evaluated:
- Explain that annual hearing tests are recommended for everyone, similar to the way you get annual physician’s checkups or semi-annual dental cleanings.
- Tell them about the links between untreated hearing loss and other associated conditions.
- Be prepared for common objections such as “I’m too young to lose my hearing,” “Hearing aids are hard to take care of,” and “It’s embarrassing to wear hearing aids.” Do your research on these myths and know how you will counteract them.
- Show them a handful statistics in order to let them know they’re not alone, such as the fact that 20% of adults in the U.S. are affected by hearing loss in some way.
- Go with them to the hearing evaluation and have your hearing tested as well!
Both hearing loss and dementia come with challenges, but as a caregiver, your love, support, and assistance helps to make them a little easier. By using these tips to help your loved one address possible hearing loss, the two of you will work together to make every day better than the last.
EarQ is a nationwide network of 1,400 independent hearing healthcare provider locations creating national public awareness to advocate for greater access to quality hearing healthcare services and products.