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Hearing Aids Shown to Delay Dementia

a hearing specialist is showing her patient a new hearing aid model

Hearing aids are commonly prescribed to treat hearing loss and improve the patient’s way of life in general. Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, affects many older adults and can often go undiagnosed for a while. If left untreated, age-related hearing loss can result in social and mental health issues as well. 

Hearing loss has been associated with cognitive decline, depression and even dementia in elderly patients. Fortunately, an audiologist can recommend a range of suitable hearing loss treatments. There are several ways in which hearing aids can improve the mental health and safety of a patient, as well as their hearing. 

Hearing aids reduce the risk of cognitive decline

Hearing may start in the ears, but a large part of the process occurs in the brain. Therefore, hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on your brain. Your ears pick up sound waves and tiny hairs in the inner ear send these to the brain via the auditory nerve to be interpreted. Certain cells in your brain are designed to interpret and respond to sound, and when they don’t receive any input this can cause problems. 

Hearing loss means that the cells normally used for hearing are perceived by your brain as not functioning properly. This results in a process called neuroplasticity, where your brain tries to make repairs or replacements to neural systems. The reason this causes cognitive decline is that your brain tries to substitute your hearing cells with cells that are used for higher cognitive functions, such as problem-solving, memory and concentration. 

If left untreated, age-related hearing loss could therefore lead to cognitive decline and eventually dementia. If it’s caught earlier then hearing aids can help to prevent this. Hearing aids take some of the strain off the brain by assisting in receiving and transmitting sounds. This leaves the cells used for higher cognitive function to get back to their main job.

Hearing aids improve the awareness of the patient

Hearing aids not only improve the wearer’s cognitive function but their overall awareness of their environment. This greatly improves their safety. For instance, the risk of falls and accidents is decreased because the wearer can respond more quickly to their environment. Being able to hear gives them more awareness of what’s happening around them and allows them to concentrate and process this information. 

Without the burden on their cognitive resources, wearers of hearing aids are much more able to engage with their environment and other people. This helps to prolong a healthy brain and is beneficial for their mental wellbeing. An audiologist will also provide help and support as they adjust to their new hearing aid. This will give the wearer more confidence and allow them to feel more comfortable in different situations.

Mental health benefits of hearing aids

There are other mental health benefits linked to hearing aids. Hearing loss can often make social interaction more challenging. This can unfortunately result in loneliness and depression for some people. Hearing aids give the wearer the opportunity to get back in touch with society again without having to worry about not understanding in conversation. This helps to improve their overall happiness.

Certain people with hearing loss might feel depressed about getting older and want to give up. Hearing aids can give them the confidence to carry on with daily tasks that could have been challenging otherwise, and this is very motivating. Hearing aids enable the wearer to work, run errands and socialize without difficulty. It’s certainly a relief for many wearers of hearing aids not having to rely on others.

An audiologist is trained to customize, fit, adjust and repair hearing aids. They treat patients of all ages and are experts in age-related hearing loss. There are various types of hearing aids and an audiologist will be able to recommend the one most suitable for each individual patient. These range from behind the ear (BTE), in the ear (ITE) and in the canal (ITC). Hearing aids can also be adjusted to custom settings, to ensure they’re optimized for the wearer.

Audiologists also provide support every step of the way to ensure the patient gets used to wearing their new hearing aid. They are available for advice on how to clean and take care of hearing aids and carry out regular check-ups. If you’re looking for an audiologist near you, at Listen Hear Diagnostics, our friendly team is available for any inquiries about hearing loss and treatment. If you would like to learn more about Listen Hear Diagnostics, contact us today at 347-450-9872.