You’ve probably seen your grandma doing crosswords or sudoku on a Sunday morning, and you may be aware that these ‘brain training’ exercises are considered tools to help ward off dementia. But did you know a conversation with your grandma over a cup of tea may be just as important?
According to Dementia Australia, people living with mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing, while those living with severe hearing loss are five-times more likely. New research reveals that the use of hearing aids by those living with hearing loss can help combat these increased risks.
Australian Doctor recently featured an article about a new study just published in The Lancet involving adults aged 40-69 years who are living with hearing loss. Those not using hearing aids were shown to have a 42 per cent increased chance of developing dementia, while those using hearing aids did not carry the same increased risk. Instead, they showed a similar risk of developing dementia to those who hear normally.
This increased risk of developing dementia following hearing loss can be attributed to the “use it or lose it” nature of the auditory nerve cells that process sound in our brains.
“In the absence of sound stimulation, [brain] cells can die off. Because there are less brain cells to process sound, the brain must work harder and is less efficient,” Assistant Director of Aging and Prevention, Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, New York City, Dr Betsy Mills (PhD), USA told Australian Doctor.
Conversation is not just important for stimulating auditory nerves. Dementia Australia also suggests feelings of loneliness or depression can compromise memory and thinking. Social interaction can reduce these feelings and, in doing so, may further minimise the risk of cognitive decline.
The use of hearing aids by those living with hearing loss can help to facilitate this important social interaction.
So, for your grandma’s health, be sure to call her regularly and ask her about her day.
To learn more about hearing aids and dementia, read the Australian Doctor article at ausdoc.com.au/news/study-confirms-hearing-aids-protect-against-dementia/