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How does your hearing impact your risk of dementia?

Study shows hearing aids can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

CLEVELAND — Nearly 38 million Americans suffer hearing issues, but many don't know it.

"It's very difficult to tell how your hearing is progressing and when you're losing your hearing oftentimes people don't know that's happening," said Sarah Sydlowski, AUD, PhD. Audiology Director of the Hearing Implant Program at the Cleveland Clinic.

A review of several studies released in December showed that hearing may impact your risk of dementia.

"When you're not hearing as well as you should be when people don't have stimulation, they tend to withdraw, they don't participate in conversations as much. They don't attend things in complicated listening environments and so they're not using their nerve and their brain in the same way," Dr. Sydlowski said.

The study showed those who used hearing aids had a 19% decreased risk of cognitive decline.

Hearing aids are now available over the counter, which may help those with mild to moderate hearing loss. But if you're concerned about your risks, you should see an expert.

"Hearing is absolutely essential for our health if you have any question about the status of your hearing, get your hearing checked, if you're fifty and you've never had your hearing checked it's time," Dr. Sydlowski said.

While prescribed hearing aids can be more pricey, they're also custom fit for your ears. Not the one-size-fits-all you can get over the counter.

"It's important that you have the right treatment, the best treatment and an audiologist is the best equipped to help you make that connection,"

Hearing issues can arise from a variety of reasons, such as aging, chronic disease, loud noises and even sleeping with earbuds.

Formal hearing tests are also covered by Medicare and should be a must for those who want to be proactive in combatting dementia in later years.

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