Keeping your brain fit through hearing aids

One of the best ways to maintain brain fitness as you age is to stay mentally engaged through an active social life. You can achieve cognitive acuity through communicating with the world around you. When hearing loss interferes with your ability to connect with friends and loved ones, it increases your risk of cognitive decline. Fortunately, you may be able to improve your hearing, keep your brain fit and slow down the accelerated cognitive decline linked to hearing loss.

Think of your brain first

How is hearing health connected to your brain? Listening and understanding require your brain and your ears to work together, with the brain doing the heavy lifting. The auditory cortex (which is in the temporal lobe) sorts out and interprets the sounds your ears detect. Your brain translates the information from your two ears to orient you. It also deciphers where noise comes from. These processes help you focus on conversation and separate out unwanted noise.

When you have hearing loss, the sound signals your brain receives from your ears is compromised. Your brain doesn’t receive the sound information it needs, and it has to exert its energy to fill in the gaps. The extra effort to keep up with conversations can leave you feeling tired and frustrated. You may begin to withdraw and avoid the social connections that are so important to your well-being.

Avoid the risks of untreated hearing loss

Many studies have shown a link between untreated hearing loss and isolation, depression and a host of other health issues, including stroke¹. If you have hearing loss, you are also more likely to experience problems with thinking and remembering than older adults with normal hearing. Researchers have also found a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. The study shows that if you have hearing loss and don’t use hearing aids, you may accelerated cognitive decline².

How hearing aids help your brain

Wearing hearing aids actively addresses hearing loss and reduces your risk of cognitive decline. That is what French researcher Hélène Amieva and her team concluded in a major study. The research involved nearly 4000 volunteers over a 25-year period. It found that people who utilized hearing aids and were socially active experienced cognitive decline at a rate similar to those without hearing loss. The researchers believe that the ability to hear better helps improve mood, increases social interactions and enables more participation in brain-stimulating activities³.

For best results, keep your hearing aids in your ears – not in a drawer

Hearing aids can only help you stay socially engaged and help keep your brain alert if you wear them. Today’s hearing aids give you both comfortable and stylish solutions that are easy to wear and can be tailored to your exact needs. Hearing aids can give an extra boost you need to follow social interaction. Staying alert will help keep your brain fit and slow down the cognitive decline linked to hearing loss. Plus, you can enjoy brain-stimulating social activities such as playing board games, cards and charades.

Signs that it’s time to get started on your hearing health journey

It may be time for a hearing assessment*, especially if you have these signs:

  • Are people mumbling more than they used to?
  • Are you having difficulty hearing conversations?
  • Does your family complain about the volume on the TV?

Just by scheduling an appointment with Audiology Hearing Care Services, you are taking an important step to keep your brain fit. There are many modern, discreet hearing solutions available – far more than even 10 years ago. Today’s hearing solutions preserve as much natural sound and detail as possible so that your auditory cortex receives the information it needs to make sense of sound.

  1. www.healthyhearing.com/report/31633-Study-links-sudden-hearing
  2. www.asha.org/Articles/Untreated-Hearing-Loss-in-Adults/
  3. Amieva H, et al. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015 Oct;63(10):2099-104

Preparing for holiday gatherings with hearing loss

Whether you are preparing to host an event this coming holiday season or are attending an impromptu gathering of friends, this is an important time to catch up with loved ones. But what if hearing loss poses a challenge for communicating?

When people gather it can be noisy. Especially if many people are speaking at the same time. Add in holiday music, restaurant chatter or a football game on in the background, and even people with excellent hearing may have trouble understanding a conversation with someone standing next to them.

If you follow these tips, it may be easier to catch up with loved ones and enjoy their company.

Pick a good place to hear at holiday events

Whether you are in a home or a restaurant, try to position yourself in a space with less background noise. Follow these tips:

  • Flooring and walls – Carpeting, tablecloths and drapery help to absorb noise.
  • Pick the right room – In a home, try to avoid the kitchen or areas near the TV. If you are in a restaurant, ask for a seat away from the kitchen or bar.
  • Avoid the amplifiers – Although you can’t always get away from blaring music, try to be as far from speakers as possible. Corners or booths can provide some relief.
  • Try for 1:1 conversations – If you really want to catch every word, there is nothing wrong with finding a quieter spot in the hallway, or even outside for one-on-one conversations.

Arrive early to choose the best seat in the house

When choosing your seat, try to be where you can see people’s faces – that way you can pick up on facial cues. Try to sit where there is good lighting. If one ear is stronger than the other, offer the person you wish to speak to the seat on your strong side. You can also ask a relative or friend to help you fill in the gaps if you miss part of the conversation.

Don’t be shy about your hearing loss this holiday season

In noisy situations there is no reason to hide your hearing loss. While it may be easier to pretend that you can hear, nodding along with the others, this is not fair to you (or to the person speaking). If you feel you missed out, there is nothing wrong with asking for a recap afterward.

You can also let people know you are missing some of the conversation with simple visual cues like placing your hand to your ear. This won’t disrupt the flow of conversations but will signal to the speaker to speak up or slow down.

Sometimes a simple reminder for relatives to speak slower works wonders.

Noticed changes in your hearing? There’s still time to get help

Although planning may be underway, the holiday season is still a few weeks away. If you are worried about hearing at Thanksgiving, holiday parties or other gatherings, there’s time to have a no-obligation hearing assessment* to see if hearing aids are an option for you. A hearing specialist can also give you tips on communicating with loved ones. If you are concerned about a loved one’s hearing, offer to bring them for an appointment. We encourage caregivers, friends and family to join our patients for the first appointment.

Let your hearing aids help you

Sometimes the most obvious strategy is the best solution. If you have hearing aids, wear them. Plus, if you forget them and have trouble following along, it may frustrate your family. The newest hearing aids have technical advancements designed for complex hearing environments, where noise is coming from multiple sources. Newer devices make it easier to hear what you want to hear, even in the situations with multiple people speaking.

For best results, try various settings in advance to see which works best for you in noisy environments. If this isn’t enough, you may also want to consider the extra help of a discreet clip-on microphone. If you would like help with your hearing aids’ settings or perhaps reprogramming them, stop in.

It’s your holiday too, so enjoy it!

If you have new hearing aids, go easy on yourself. Take short breaks to give your brain a rest and re-energize when you feel fatigue setting in. If conversation at the table is challenging, focus on the people nearest you. If a group is too noisy or fast-paced, try a smaller and quieter group to join. Social events are for your enjoyment – not a test of your stamina.

Don’t let hearing loss keep you from enjoying the people and things you love. Locate your closest hearing professional and make an appointment with Audiology Hearing Care Services.