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Often times, patients are hesitant to receive hearing aids. In fact, O'Connell says that once hearing loss is diagnosed and hearing aids are recommended, most people wait an average of 7 years before actually getting them. "Having people come in and take the leap is the biggest obstacle," she adds.

And it's not just about having an improved quality of life, it could also improve cognitive functions. "When hearing loss goes untreated, the brain uses resources it would otherwise be able to use for various tasks in its attempt to compensate for the missing speech cues," O'Connell adds. "This taps into the person's cognitive reserve. Hearing aids can reduce the load for the individual, freeing up some of the brain’s other resources for their usual purposes." Another idea is that hearing loss can increase the likelihood of social isolation, which is also a known risk factor for dementia.

Another form of treatment is education. "Providing good communication strategies to patients and family members is important when someone has hearing loss. Examples such as not trying to speak to someone from another room, using face-to-face communication and avoiding background noise are a just a few ways." She adds there are also hearing stimulation "exercises" that can be employed which can challenge one's listening skills. 

Hearing loss generally develops slowly, which makes it hard to recognize. O'Connell stresses that since getting proper treatment for hearing loss is now known to reduce the risk of dementia, getting a hearing evaluation in mid-life may preserve quality of life as we age.

By: Jennifer Dumke - Sioux Falls Woman Magazine

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