Dementia &

Hearing Loss

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome that affects the cognitive function of an individual. It affects mainly elderly people but is not a deterioration that is typically found with ageing. There is typically a reduction in memory, thinking, calculations, orientation, comprehension, learning capacity, language and judgment.

Aside from cognitive decline, emotional effects are also seen. Emotional control, social behaviour and motivation are all typically reduced with dementia.

For these reasons, dementia can be overwhelming on the patient’s carer and/or families. It is one of the major reasons for disability and dependency among the elderly. Dementia can create a physical, social and psychological strain on all those that are involved.

Common symptoms of dementia

Dementia may affect all people in different ways. But it’s effects can typically be summarised into three stages:

Early-stage: As the onset of dementia can be very gradual, this stage may often be overlooked.
Common symptoms include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Disorientation with time and location

Middle stage: Symptoms are now clearer and more disabling.
Common symptoms include:

  • Short term memory impairment
  • Disorientation at home
  • Increased communication difficulty
  • Needing help with personal care
  • Behavioural changes (wandering, repetitive questioning)

Late-stage: The patient is completely dependent and inactive.
Common symptoms include:

  • Becoming unaware of time and place
  • Difficulty recognising friends and family
  • Increased need for assistive self-care
  • Difficulty with walking
  • Further behavioural changes that may escalate and lead to aggression

Common symptoms of hearing loss

With advancing age, patients inevitably lose their hearing. This is called presbycusis, the most common type of hearing loss. This results in a gradual loss in the high frequencies which may then spread to the lower frequencies with age. There is little that can be done to treat this hearing loss however with the fitting of hearing devices, associated symptoms of hearing loss may be prevented and therefore the quality of life improved.

    The link between dementia and hearing loss

    The mental fatigue and/or subsequent social withdrawal experienced from hearing loss may have contributing factors on cognitive decline and the onset of dementia. Withdrawal from social activities will often lead to depression and anxiety in the user, which is a known risk factor for dementia.

    Currently, the underlying causal mechanisms between dementia and hearing loss is not well understood. Nevertheless, numerous studies have found a significant association between hearing loss and cognitive impairment and dementia. They suggest that a significant, unaided hearing loss is a risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia when compared to those fitted with hearing aids. Furthermore, research suggests that the breakdown of effective verbal communication, causing social isolation, is a risk factor for poorer overall cognitive performance and executive functioning, faster cognitive decline, increased negativity and depressive cognition. It has been reported that maintaining strong social connections are capable of delaying these unwanted side effects.

    What does this mean?

    In summary, hearing loss often leads to a communication breakdown which may further lead to social withdrawal, depression and anxiety. These are all risk factors for cognitive impairment and dementia. The most common and effective way to avoid these potential issues is with amplification as it places the patients in an optimal position to maintain social connections. Research suggests that these positive effects have potential in delaying cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.

    Where to get help

    Our highly trained team at AudioHearing are experts on:

    • Identifying the medical signs for dementia and ear-related concerns
    • Prescribing a tailored rehabilitation plan for the individual’s needs
    • Selecting the correct hearing aid for the patient’s needs – we are an independent hearing aid provider and focused on patient outcomes rather than commission
    • Counselling to maximise the rehabilitation process and optimise hearing health 

    How Can We Help You?

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