By Jill Copley, Au.D., CCC-A~
Whether it’s chatting with friends and loved ones, playing with a pet, speaking to a physician, or working with a CPA or banker, clear communication is vitally important to our lives.
For most of us, hearing is our means to understand common types of interactions. Fortunately, when hearing becomes a challenge, hearing instruments are one solution.
Hearing loss isn’t always easy to detect. Symptoms often develop gradually, and, since the brain constantly adapts, you might not even notice differences.
Hearing loss is common and can occur at any age. Learning to recognize the signs early will improve your chances of successful treatment. If two or more of these signs describes your current experience, it might be time to consider a hearing test.
So, you’ve had a hearing test, and the audiologist finds hearing loss. When is it appropriate to get hearing aids?
Preventing difficulty with communication and cognitive decline is vital. We know some people with even very slight hearing loss can have trouble with certain interactions, such as engaging in meetings at work, talking with an employer, or understanding young children. This level of hearing loss may not affect everyday activities, but, for these people, hearing aids may be essential for their quality of life.
Others may experience mild hearing impairment in which they notice little difficulty; however, they may experience irritation with background noise. In many cases, friends and family will notice this first. It is important to pursue treatment with hearing aids at this time. Although you or your loved one may not notice a big difference with devices, it is essential to keep neural auditory connections active to prevent cognitive degeneration.
There is an irrefutable link between hearing and memory loss. Although the reason for the correlation isn’t completely understood, several theories exist. One suggests that an increased cognitive load on the brain, when trying to hear properly, taxes resources otherwise available for memory and concentration.
Research published in 2014, found people with even mild hearing loss showed more “gray matter” brain shrinkage in areas of the brain that process memory and hearing. Images of these areas is similar to the damage seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Another study published in 2011, found that those with moderate hearing loss are three times as likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Another factor may be the social isolation individuals with hearing loss may experience. Lack of socialization is shown to accelerate symptoms of cognitive decline and dementia.
The final answer on when you need to get hearing aids?
As soon as you or your loved ones notice two or more of the signs listed above, or if you receive even a mild hearing loss diagnosis.
Hearing aids can significantly improve your quality of life and prevent cognitive decline. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of hearing loss — your family and your brain will thank you.