Many symptoms of hearing loss in seniors—such as disinterest, personality changes, and general confusion—are also the same symptoms of dementia. For this reason, it’s important to get professional medical attention so the proper issue is being treated.
After arthritis and heart disease, hearing loss is the third most common physical condition experienced by seniors. A third of all people have hearing loss by the age of 65. Statistics show that only one in five seniors who could benefit from hearing treatment seek help. Many put it off until it becomes a constant obstacle to communication—and this hesitation can increase their risk of dementia.
A Connection to Serious Health Conditions
More studies must be done, but most medical experts agree that there is a connection between hearing loss and its impact on dementia or cognitive decline.
One part of this theory is that if the brain is constantly trying to interpret sounds that are difficult to hear, it spends less time and energy on things like memory and thinking. Cognitive load is decreased. Hearing loss may also contribute to faster rates of decline of the parts of the brain that process sound. These are the same areas of the brain that help with memory and the senses. Finally, people with profound hearing loss often withdraw from social activities. Studies show that decreased social engagement can contribute to cognitive decline.
First and foremost, it’s crucial to have a medical professional determine if the cause of behavioral changes is because of the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or as a result of hearing loss. If it’s because of hearing loss, it’s time to remedy the situation.
Be prepared. Hearing aids are expensive, and they may not even be affordable for seniors who are on a fixed budget. Medicare will not cover hearing examinations or hearing aids. While they can make an amazing difference, hearing aids can cost as much $2,500 for each ear—or even more.
There are alternatives to hearing aids, and they may be a better solution. These alternatives are called personal sound amplification products. They’re less expensive because unlike hearing aids, they are not regulated by the FDA.
So, while they are not required to meet specific technical or performance standards, it doesn’t mean they can’t be just as effective. It only means that you’ll have to be more careful by doing deeper research into the quality of the device you purchase. The cost savings is well worth the time spent.
Don’t let hearing problems rob a senior you care for of their quality of life. There are relatively inexpensive options to hearing aids, and even these may help to ward off the conditions that may lead to cognitive decline.