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Making Sense! Spotlight On Hearing

Hearing connects us to the world, helping us communicate, work, socialize and be alert to potential danger.

Making Sense! Spotlight On Hearing

Hearing impairment, likely affecting over 30% of seniors, touches all aspects of daily living. It contributes to depression, loneliness, poor job performance, and in the long run, may lead to Dementia. It is thought by some, that untreated hearing loss could be responsible for 9% of Dementia worldwide. The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices that include correction of hearing loss, might possibly delay or prevent one-third of Dementia cases.

Here is a guide to understanding hearing loss and what to do about it:

What causes hearing loss?

  • Age

  • Genetics (family history)

  • Chronic illness (type-2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular, autoimmune, and infectious diseases)

  • Medication (diuretics, antibiotics, chemotherapy, others)

  • Environment (noise, pollution, industrial chemicals)

  • Head trauma

  • Smoking

  • And more...

We can’t change our genetics, but we can take steps to affect the other factors.

What are the types of hearing loss? Peripheral hearing loss occurs in the ear, while central loss involves parts of the brain that process auditory signals. Hearing loss is often a mix of both types.

How does hearing loss cause Dementia? It increases social isolation, reduces stimulation to the brain, and/or it may arise from the same brain changes that cause dementia.

What does testing involve?

To be thorough, take three tests:

  • Ear testing: wear headphones while identifying short sounds played at different volumes and pitches.

  • Central auditory processing (CAP) evaluation: checks speech reception and word recognition using the Staggered Spondaic Word Test (SSW) and the Synthetic Sentence Identification with Ipsilateral Competing Message test (SSI-ICM).

  • Cognition: The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA), available online, for free, in multiple languages and dialects, is one page and takes ten minutes. MOCA detects mild cognitive impairment and early dementia.

What treatment is available?

  • Hearing aids make sounds louder and easier to pick up.

  • Middle or inner (cochlear) ear implants boost signals that go to the brain.

Treatment slows mental decline and improves cognitive test scores, so sooner is better.

What lifestyle strategies support hearing? :

  • Moderate alcohol consumption

  • Bone-strengthening exercise

  • Antioxidant (Mediterranean, DASH) diets

  • Stop smoking

Correcting hearing loss improves life enjoyment, daily function, and brain health. Take action today to help counter this modifiable risk for Dementia.


Contributing Blogger: Jennie Ann Freiman, MD, author of The SEEDS Plan.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse or guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.



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