At the moment, around 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia of some kind, and that figure is expected to rise to over one million by 2021. Dementia is a form of brain damage that devastates lives, and there is currently no cure, although scientists are working hard to find one. There is also no real consensus on just what causes dementia, but there are some interesting theories and some links that are just too clear to dismiss. One of those links is between the onset of dementia and hearing loss. Here is what is thought so far.
The brain is the organ that decodes every sound that you hear, turning it into recognisable speech or other sounds that will mean something to you such as birdsong, an alarm, or a door opening. When you can’t hear very well, fewer messages regarding these sounds are getting to the brain, and therefore it doesn’t need to work as hard as it did. We know that exercising the brain is the same as exercising a muscle in that it needs to be an ongoing thing to keep it healthy, so the less work it has to do, the more chance there is of developing some form of dementia and hearing loss.
More Brain Strain
Although the brain might not be working as hard overall when you suffer from hearing loss, in some respects it is working harder than ever, and that is putting a lot of strain on an organ not designed to take it. When you can’t hear, the brain has to strain to decode the message that are coming to it, working overtime to give you these message, even if they are wrong. This can cause brain damage, including dementia.
Isolated is another cause for dementia according to studies. Without anyone to talk to or anything to do, the brain shuts down and memory and cognitive abilities start to fail. For those who have hearing loss, social situations that they might once have enjoyed are no longer fun – it’s embarrassing to keep asking what someone has said, or to misunderstand instructions. So they stop going, and might even stop talking to friends and family, especially if they normally do this over the phone. They become more and more isolated, at which point dementia can more easily start.