My 2 Hour Hearing & Brain Health Seminar in 4 Minutes

A meteorite is about to hit planet Earth over the course of the next 10–20 years. This will come in the form of health issues associated with our rapidly ageing population. As we live longer lives, our risk for chronic disease also increases. Whist there’s currently no cure for the most common chronic conditions, treatments are becoming far more effective, especially when they are delivered in time.

This brief article aims to give readers a preview of material covered in detail at my Hearing & Brain Health seminars focussing on the clear links between untreated hearing loss and dementia and what can be done about it. I’ve spent hundreds of hours pulling together the most relevant and interesting research I can find. If you’ve not already been, I sincerely hope you can find the time to join us at our next session to learn more about this important subject.

Hearing Loss is the third most common chronic condition in Australia, more prevalent than diabetes or cancer. The most widespread form of hearing loss is acquired later in life and is essentially a progressive, degenerative disorder with neurologic involvement. As we age, we, and every other mammal on the planet, are genetically predetermined to progressively endure the effects of hearing loss.

Over eighty percent of hearing loss occurs in older adults, and a noise-induced component occurs in around half of cases. Age- and noise-related hearing loss are the most common, are permanent, and cause similar hearing loss configurations and similar symptoms. When both ageing and noise exposure are present, they combine to cause a relatively rapid decline in hearing sensitivity. Noise exposure is very much like premature ageing of the hearing system; as similar degenerative processes are at play.

Age and noise related hearing loss will commonly result in one or more of the following:

· Difficulty hearing in background noise & social situations

· Difficulty hearing the TV at normal volume

· Difficulty hearing when faces can be seen e.g. from another room

· A higher degree of listening effort generally, frequently leading to fatigue

What is not overtly obvious to most people is that we hear with our brains and not with our ears. What happens beyond the ear, with particular reference to the neural pathways the lead to the brain are of most interest. Recent advances in the neurosciences and imaging technology has given us greater insight into the impact of untreated hearing loss and what can be done about it.

Untreated hearing loss has been shown to double dementia risk even at its mildest stages.In 2011, Professor Frank Lin at the Johns Hopkins Medical Centre in the US published research that demonstrated an increased risk of dementia by:

200 percent at mild levels of hearing loss

300 percent at moderate levels of hearing loss

500 percent at severe levels of hearing loss

He concluded that hearing impairment is independently associated with a 30-40% acceleration in cognitive decline.

These shocking findings have since been replicated and have sparked additional research interest into this important field. Professor Lin has published numerous peer reviewed studies, many with with clear imagery highlighting cerebral atrophy in untreated hearing loss.

Figure 1. Untreated hearing loss results in up to 40% reduction in parts of the brain associated with hearing, speech, language and memory (Lin et al. 2011).

The Lancet Medical journal (considered to be the world’s leading medical journal with reference to the Neurosciences) recently published a major article demonstrating that Hearing Loss is the #1 modifiable risk factor for the prevention of dementia, modifiable meaning you can do something about it.

The three main mechanisms behind the clear links between untreated hearing loss and dementia identified in the Lancet article and elsewhere are cerebral atrophy, cognitive overload and social isolation:

· Cerebral Atrophy: This is another term for ‘brain shrinkage’ as shown in the image above. In untreated hearing loss, we see up to 40% reduction in the parts of the brain associated with speech, language, hearing and memory. Recent studies have also shown clear functional and structural improvements in the brain when hearing loss is effectively treated.

· Cognitive Overload: Put simply, untreated hearing loss strains the brain and puts an additional load on our limited cognitive resources. This additional load is 24/7 and requires input from our vision and memory to compensate for a lack of hearing clarity. Such additional load can also lead to balance disturbance and unsteadiness, leading to a heightened risk of falls.

· Social Isolation: One of the first signs of hearing loss is difficulty hearing in social situations, this often leads to embarrassment and frequently a sense of feeling left out. A strong trend is that people with untreated hearing loss start to then avoid social situations, frequently leading to social isolation and loneliness. Studies have shown clear links between social isolation, depression, anxiety and less physical activity. By treating your hearing loss, you’re better able to engage and stay sharp in social, family and work situations.

Treatment is most effective when it commences early, today’s treatment options are smaller and smarter than ever before. On average, Australians have historically waited 7 years before treating their hearing loss. In light of the neurological consequences, we now know that’s 7 years too late. Today’s solutions are highly effective, virtually invisible and can be fitted at the initial appointment, quickly and easily in most cases.

In addition to hearing devices, innovative brain training programs can assist in improving speech in noise understanding by up to 40%. One program has shown to reduce dementia risk by 36% sustained over a 10-year period. These results are achievable via simple and engaging programs that can be done at home, all backed up by peer reviewed research.

You’ll learn about all of the above and much more at our Hearing & Brain Health seminar. It’s absolutely free, purely educational and not focused on sales. I highly recommend you bring someone you care about as there’s much to take in.

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