I seem to be on a kick lately about brain health and body parts. A few weeks ago, I did a piece on your digestive system, and how it serves as a “second brain” in a way that can reduce the risk of dementia.
But now, having taken you on a tour of your intestinal track, and we’re going to head back north and talk about, of all things, your ears.
So listen up. Because what I’m about to tell may represent what experts say is the single best way to defend your cognition.
Hi, I’m Tony Dearing, of GoCogno.com, the website for people with mild cognitive impairment.
I say this often, but it never hurts to remind you. If you have MCI, you do not have dementia, but you are at higher risk for dementia. So you want to do everything you possibly can, right now, while you’re still at the MCI stage, to reduce your risk.
Because dementia is preventable. And we’ve known that for a while. But a couple of years ago, the medical journal The Lancet said that even more definitively. It said just based on what we know how to do right now, 33 percent of all dementia cases could be prevented.
And here’s how.
This is the Lancet list, ranked in order, of the leading preventable causes of dementia.
- Hearing Loss
- Low education level
- Lack of exercise
- Social isolation
- Type 2 diabetes
And as you can see, No. 1 on the list is hearing loss.
Does that surprise you? It surprised me. It surprised most people who work in brain health. Hearing really wasn’t on anyone’s radar.
And unfortunately, it still isn’t. It is a major risk factor that still isn’t being properly recognized or addressed.
And if that wasn’t troubling enough already, now comes this new research, which suggests hearing loss is an even more insidious contributor to cognitive impairment than we previously realized.
This study involved almost 6,500 people with an average age of 59.
What researchers found was a “clinically significant” amount of cognitive decline in people with even slight hearing loss.
The lead researcher said: “The surprising thing about this study is that the relationship (between hearing loss and cognitive decline) began even in people who had ‘good but not perfect’ hearing. This is among the first evidence that this association may begin earlier than previously thought.”
More study needs to be done on this, but it’s concerning. And it’s certainly something that anyone with MCI should be aware of.
There are a several theories about the association between hearing loss and cognitive impairment. Generally, they go along the lines of what Pinky Agarwal, a neurologist at the Booth Gardner Parkinson’s Center in Washington state, told Healthline.
Agarwal said, “Hearing loss can lead to social isolation and depression that may exacerbate cognitive decline, and the constant perceptual effort resulting from reduced hearing acuity can be a source of stress and mental fatigue.”
So if you have a diagnosis of MCI, your doctor has probably talked to you about diet, about exercise, about a lot of things like that. But what about hearing loss? Has that subject even come up?
Based on this and other recent research, I’ve seen it recommend that tests of hearing perception should be given to anyone age 65 or older, as well as anyone with cognitive impairment.
Have you had your hearing tested? It could be the single best thing you do to defend your cognition. I hope you check that out, and I look forward to seeing you again next week. Until then, as always, be kind to your mind.