Did you know that even mild hearing loss, if left untreated, can increase your risk of developing cognitive impairment? Untreated moderate and severe hearing losses are even more likely to lead to dementia. Dr. Frank Lin and his fellow researchers at John Hopkins have conducted studies that support this link between hearing loss and brain health. Hearing loss can lead to increased cognitive load, decreases in brain tissue volume and social isolation. Research is ongoing, but treating hearing loss with hearing devices may help stimulate the brain and fend off the effects of hearing loss.
Every week in our office we see patients with all degrees of hearing loss. Families often wonder if Mom or Dad has hearing loss, early dementia or both. An audiometric evaluation by an Audiologist will provide valuable information about the problem. If a hearing loss is identified, treatment options will be recommended, and an individually tailored care plan will be developed.
It is amazing to see the difference in a person who gets hearing help. I recall one woman who was withdrawn, looked down, had no facial expressions and couldn’t participate in our discussion about her hearing. When hearing aids were connected she immediately made eye contact, became engaged and smiled! After wearing the devices in her own world, she reported, "that she was able to hear her grandchildren and could even hear her cat “purr”!" She had forgotten that he purred.
After being fit with hearing aids, one gentleman was amazed to hear a clicking sound as his daughter drove him away from our office. She told him that the clicking was the car’s directional turn signals, which he hadn’t heard for at least 30 years. He stated that he felt embarrassed that he had waited so long, and that his hearing aids were comfortable and life changing. He began going to breakfast with old work buddies and his television volume was much lower, which made his wife extremely happy.
At least twice a year, I see couples in the office who demand that their spouse get hearing help or separation/divorce will ensue. They are serious. Hearing loss affects not only the person with the impairment, but the spouse and entire family. Occasionally family members need to insist that hearing help be pursued, knowing that it is in the best interest of their loved one. Communication difficulties affect the entire family. In addition, clergy, fellow church members, physicians, allied health care providers, store clerks and restaurant wait staff are all affected by that hearing loss.
For those with severe hearing loss, safety and awareness are also important. I have heard many family members state that they have to bang on the door to get their loved one to answer, as they cannot hear. Likewise, many family members end up rushing over to a parent’s home because he doesn’t answer the telephone. The ability to hear visitors (or intruders!), and furnace or appliance malfunction are critical to well -being and independence. It all begins with a hearing evaluation by an Audiologist at Lemme Audiology Associates.
-Dr. Heather Nackley