In the first year of our life our brain grow and develops by 50%. By the time we are 5 years old the brain is nearly 90% developed. However, it may come as a disappointment for many that the brain starts to decline as early as 45 years of age. If you are concerned about your cognitive health, it’s important to remember that there is a lot of aspects that contribute to a healthy mind. You might be surprised to find out that this not only includes consistently challenging your mind and learning but also vision and hearing health. Have you been living with blurry vison for years and feeling that it’s fine or living with a slight hearing impairment for years and thinking to your self that it just isn’t bad enough to treat? Well, you may be doing yourself more damage than you might suspect. A recent study found that addressing vision and hearing issues has the potential to slow cognitive decline by 50-75%.
While some mild changes in cognition are considered a normal part of the aging process, such as subtle issues with thinking speed and attention, if cognitive decline becomes apparent it could signal dementia. Dementia is a grouping of neurodegenerative diseases which impede at least two brain functions such as memory, the order in which processes are completed or the ability to complete daily tasks. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “While age is the primary risk factor for cognitive impairment, other risk factors include genealogy, education level, brain injury, exposure to pesticides or toxins, physical inactivity, and chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and stroke, and diabetes.” It’s important to remember that cognitive decline at a fast rate is not normal, signaling an increased risk for dementia which takes a toll not only on you, but those who care for you. Dementia patients require 24/7 care as the condition reduces mobility, interferes with the tasks of daily life, impacts your memory, mood, personality and puts a strain on your relationships.
Linking Cognitive Decline and Hearing Loss
While it may make sense to many that staying social and challenging your mind to learn new things constantly can help keep your mind spry through the years, what is it about hearing and vision which support brain health? Part of the equation may lie in the fact that while we collect visual information with our eyes and audio information with our ears, processing, and compression of what we are experiencing actually occurs in the mind.
A recent collaborative study between the University of Michigan and the University of Manchester in the U.K. examined connections between cognitive decline, hearing loss and vision. The study analyzed data from nearly 2,000 participants who took various health measures biannually over an18 year span. At the end of this study, they discovered that living with hearing loss or vision impairment was a major factor in rapid cognitive decline, along with social isolation, and reduced mental stimulation.
Social isolation is a major risk factor for dementia – especially for seniors who are more prone to loneliness due to retirement, the loss of partners, and shrinking friend groups. Hearing loss being more common in seniors makes it that much difficult to communicate with loved ones, build relationships, attend classes, and pursue hobbies. When you can’t see or hear clearly, it’s difficult to interact with family and friends, and even going for a walk in your neighborhood can be dangerous or unnerving.
Taking Care of Your Vision and Hearing
A recent study found that wearing hearing aids can slow cognitive decline by 75%! Clear hearing and vision means more time connecting to the people who have supported uyou throughout your life. This might just be the key to keeping you engaged, inspired active and enjoying the life you love. Taking care of your senses could be the cornerstone holding your entire quality of life in place allowing you to connect stay active and live the life you love.
Treating Hearing Loss
If you or someone you love is struggling with a hearing loss, then it’s important to take action around your hearing loss. The first step for brain health is to schedule a hearing exam today and discover all of your options!