Audiology Expert at Hearing Aid UK
I have always been sceptical about any direct link between hearing loss and dementia. This subject is of particular interest to me and when I have considered the various studies that have come out over the last 30 years I have never been convinced. "Correlation is not causation" as they say and to be blunt, older people are the main demographic to develop hearing loss and older people are the main demographic to develop dementia does not mean that hearing loss causes dementia.
I admit to having had some bias on the subject as well. There is a national hearing aid company that I shall not mention by name that for many years has had dementia as the main aspect of their "sales training". I have spoken to too many of their potential customers who were left very upset after being browbeaten for an hour about how if they didn't buy hearing aids from them that they would surely start to suffer from dementia in no time at all.
I think that this is despicable behaviour and due to how cross it makes me, I, therefore, chose not to believe in any link between hearing loss and dementia. I have always stuck rigidly to the facts when asked, "there have been many studies for many years and the thing they all have in common is no definitive results."
I have now changed my mind. I would obviously encourage you all to do your own research into the subject to come to your own conclusions and a good starting point is to have a read of Professor Gill Livingston's recent interview with The Telegraph. Professor Livingston is a highly credible source, she was the lead author for the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care so therefore certainly knows the subject as well as anyone, as a result, I am now a believer.
Written below are some excerpts from that article* and other related information.
Experiencing hearing loss as you get older, known as Presbycusis, is common and frankly more than an inconvenience and now Professor Livingston states that hearing loss is the largest preventable risk factor for dementia In fact, she believes that 8 in every 100 dementia cases are a result of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is commonly linked to cognitive decline and stimulation. When your brain is actively stimulated this results in physical changes that are positive. Such cognitively stimulating environments could be actively partaking in conversation. Due to you not being able to predict what they are going to talk about, combined with the need for your response - you hear various points of view and this forces your brain to work hard.
People with 'normal' hearing have an active brain that can pick out speech sounds from challenging background noise, distinguish them and understand them. If you can't hear what is being said there is a high probability that you will start avoiding people and social gatherings.
Over time, without amplification, your perception of sound can change. This means there is no social cognitive stimulation, which can lead to depression, which is also known to increase the risk of dementia. However, there is an answer to this problem - wearing a hearing aid can prevent the risk of developing dementia completely.
“From the population studies out there, we can see that people who use hearing aids don’t have any higher risk of dementia than people who don’t have a hearing impairment.”**
In order for the auditory cortex to function successfully, it needs to be used like all the other muscles in your body. Your brain is no different - if you have untreated hearing loss then parts of your brain may start to weaken. If you stop using a part of your brain or signals can no longer reach it then the neural pathways can break down. This is why it is important to seek professional help, receive a quick diagnosis, get the best treatment going forward for your future hearing healthcare and reduce the risk of dementia.
The absence of a cure means that there is consistently focused research on prevention, as more and more people are touched by this disease. For example, we’ve all probably at some point read, whilst the superfood awareness trend hit the lifestyle scene, that food of this ilk confers health benefits that could prevent dementia. Other similar myths and misconceptions can potentially be more harmful than good, as they can create stigmatisation and barriers to diagnosis and care.
This is why research and awareness are key to understanding this disease and to becoming more dementia-aware through fact-based articles from experts in the field, such as Professor Livingston.
If you'd like to ask any questions regarding this article, you think you or someone else might have hearing loss - then it is important that you seek professional guidance sooner rather than later.
If you would like hearing healthcare support from an audiology expert- please call us free on 0800 567 7621
Do not spend hundreds of pounds without getting a second opinion from us.
If you are looking at this page then it is likely that an audiologist has suggested that you purchase this particular hearing aid, so is this the best model for you?
In general, any audiologist will always be recommending to you the model that best suits your needs. Here is a useful check list to make sure that is the case.
If in doubt, feel free to give us a call. That's what we're here for.
If you have a significant hearing loss in both ears, you should be wearing two hearing aids. Here are the audiological reasons why:
Localisation. The brain decodes information from both ears and compares and contrasts them. By analysing the miniscule time delays as well as the difference in loudness of each sound reaching the ears, the person is able to accurately locate a sound source. Simply put, if you have better hearing on one side than the other, you can't accurately tell what direction sounds are coming from.
Less amplification required. A phenomena known as “binaural summation” means that the hearing aids can be set at a lower and more natural volume setting than than if you wore only one hearing aid.
Head shadow effect. High frequencies, the part of your hearing that gives clarity and meaning to speech sounds, cannot bend around your head. Only low frequencies can. Therefore if someone is talking on your unaided side you are likely to hear that they are speaking, but be unable to tell what they have said.
Noise reduction. The brain has it’s own built in noise reduction which is only really effective when it is receiving information from both ears. If only one ear is aided, even with the best hearing aid in the world, it will be difficult for you to hear in background noise as your brain is trying to retain all of the sounds (including background noise) rather than filtering it out.
Sound quality. We are designed to hear in stereo. Only hearing from one side sounds a lot less natural to us.
For most people, the main benefit of a rechargeable hearing aid is simple convenience. We are used to plugging in our phones and other devices overnight for them to charge up.
For anybody with poor dexterity or issues with their fingers, having a rechargeable aid makes a huge difference as normal hearing aid batteries are quite small and some people find them fiddly to change.
One downside is that if you forget to charge your hearing aid, then it is a problem that can't be instantly fixed. For most a 30 minute charge will get you at least two or three hours of hearing, but if you are the type of person who is likely to forget to plug them in regularly then you're probably better off with standard batteries.
Rechargeable aids are also a little bit bigger and are only available in behind the ear models.
Finally, just like with a mobile phone, the amount of charge you get on day one is not going to be the same as you get a few years down the line. Be sure to ask what the policy is with the manufacturer warranty when it comes to replacing the battery.
For most people, the answer is yes. But it's never that simple.
The majority of hearing problems affect the high frequencies a lot more than the low ones. Therefore open fitting hearing aids sound a lot more natural and ones that block your ears up can make your own voice sound like you are talking with your head in a bucket. Therefore in-ear aids tend to be less natural.
However the true answer is we can't tell until we have had a look in your ears to assess the size of your ear canal, and until we have tested your hearing to see which frequencies are being affected.
People with wider ear canals tend to have more flexibility, also there are open fitting modular CIC hearing aids now that do not block your ears.
There is also the age old rule to consider, that a hearing aid will not help you if it's sat in the drawer gathering dust. If the only hearing aid you would be happy wearing is one that people can't see, then that's what you should get.
Most people can adapt to any type of hearing aid, as long as they know what to expect. Have an honest conversation with your audiologist as to what your needs are.
Generally speaking, six or more. Unless it's none at all.
The number of channels a hearing aid has is often a simplistic way an audiologist will use to explain why one hearing aid is better than another, but channels are complex and it is really not that straightforward.
Hearing aids amplify sounds of different frequencies by different amounts. Most people have lost more high frequencies than low and therefore need more amplification in the high frequencies. The range of sounds you hear are split into frequency bands or channels and the hearing aids are set to provide the right amount of hearing at each frequency level.
Less than six channels and this cannot be done with much accuracy, so six is the magic number. However, a six channel aid is typically very basic with few other features and is suitable only for hearing a single speaker in a quiet room. The number of channels is not what you should be looking at, it's more the rest of the technology that comes with them.
As a final note, different manufacturers have different approaches. One method is not necessarily better than any other. For example some manufacturers have as many as 64 channels in their top aids. Most tend to have between 17 and 20. One manufacturer has no channels at all.
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