Hearing loss and Dementia is there a link?

Its being reported more often in papers and on the news the possibilities of a link between hearing loss and dementia. There is research that continues that shows having a hearing loss can increase the risk of developing dementia.

There are around 850 000 people in the UK that are diagnosed with dementia, www.dementiauk.org, and around 9 million people that suffer with a hearing loss, 72% of those aged over 60 years old. www.rnid.org.uk  You could look at the figures and say that its inevitable with that amount of people having a hearing loss that some of them are bound to suffer from dementia, however there are clear links that explain how having a hearing loss can affect the cognitive decline associated with dementia.

Our body is a complete system each part is connected and it all works together. If one area isn’t functioning as well as it should be that causes strain on the other parts that are trying to compensate and those areas not getting the stimulation they need to perform to their full potential.

The temporal lobe is the part of the brain that’s function centres around auditory stimuli, It takes the frequencies and pitches given to it from the ear and processes them in to meaningful sounds, filtering out the unwanted noises to enable us to hear what we want to hear. It provides meaning to the language and makes it distinguishable. This same part of the brain also helps with recognising complex shapes such as faces, it is involved with emotion and learning and helps to form the conscious long term memory.

The same part of the brain responsible for interpreting sounds we hear and recognising faces also plays its part for our emotions, learning and long term memory.  If we have a decline in our hearing this can lead to a cognitive decline which may lead to dementia.

In some cases the symptoms of hearing loss and dementia can mask each other as they can be very similar. Someone having difficulty with communicating and understanding speech can be signs of hearing loss but can also be signs of someone suffering with dementia. You may have noticed someone who has become more isolated and less interactive when with friends. Some one who has signs of depression all these could point to a person with a hearing loss or someone with the onset of dementia.

Dementia and hearing loss are both progressive and only get worse over time. On average we wait around 10 years before seeking help for hearing loss, it’s a sure sign that we are getting old right?  When we do seek help GPs fail to refer around 30 – 45% of those people to NHS audiology services. www.rnid.org.uk We are just prolonging the diagnosis and delaying getting the help.

The research into hearing loss and dementia continues but results show there are links and if by treating a hearing loss early it can help to slow down the progression of any age related illness its got to be worth making an appointment.

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