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Your Hearing and Your Brain

When I was 10 years old, my father remarried my stepmother. It was a fun day filled with love. I remember a few small details from that day, even though it occurred over 25 years ago. I remember my step-mother’s beautiful wedding gown. I remember being a junior bridesmaid in a beautiful teal dress. I remember the dress my step-grandmother wore. I remember the blue knee high stockings my best friend wore with her stylish blue sweater dress. And, most importantly, I remember that my father’s mother forgot to bring the skirt to her beautiful pink sequined outfit. Instead, she had had to wear her standard maroon skirt that she wore to run errands around town. At the time, we thought she was just being forgetful. However, we later realized she was showing signs of Alzheimer’s.

Grandma would not be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s for another three years. However, throughout those three years, signs popped up everyday. She forgot my name. She forgot her own son’s name. She forgot how she got to our house. But the biggest sign that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis was coming had actually been occurring since before I was born.

Grandma’s famous phrase was “heh?” We actually would laugh every time she would say “heh?” It was her signature way of asking you to repeat whatever it was you just said. My mom found it annoying, but I always thought it was just Grandma being Grandma. When I was young, I thought it was normal that older people could not hear well. I was wrong.

See, Grandma’s “heh?” was really the first sign that she may develop other cognitive issues, such as Alzheimer’s, as she got older. Yet rather than doing anything about it or suggesting she get the help she needed, we just accepted it as a fact of life. Had we pushed her towards getting her hearing checked and purchasing hearing aids, we may have prevented or at least put off the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Studies have shown that hearing loss affects one’s cognitive ability by impeding upon abilities that aid in memory, concentration, and planning. These studies showed that if these individuals had simply treated the hearing loss with hearing aids or cochlear implants, they could have increased their cognitive abilities.

Hearing and brain activity are interrelated as part of the entire cognitive system. The less we hear or understand what is going on around us, the more isolated we become. As we become isolated, our brain activity diminishes because we are no longer making our minds work. Countless studies have indicated this as a major factor in dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of adult memory loss that used to be considered simple side effects of old age.

Most of us can remember at least one family member with a story similar to Grandma’s. We all have that one family member who was always a little hard of hearing until suddenly they could not remember their loved ones or other types of issues with memory and confusion. It is important to be proactive and help our family members make sure their hearing is working properly and jump on a solution before it is too late. Grandma passed away when I was eighteen. She died from complications related to Alzheimer’s. I miss her daily, but most of all I wish I knew then what I know now. Instead of joking about her hearing, I wish I had suggested that she get it taken care of early on.

If your family members or you are exhibiting signs of hearing issues, contact the experts at Chears Audiology at (952) 767-0672. They will be happy to answer your questions and help you live a hearing enabled life.

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