no. 128 – The Hearing Loss and Dementia Episode

Many people are unaware of the connection between hearing loss and dementia. This episode covers what you need to know.



podcast, umillennial, Gen X, podcasts for women, women over 40, women over 50, hearing loss, dementia


(transcript generated through AI; may contain spelling errors)

Today’s broadcast is brought to you by your color guru, your color is where I went this last year to get my color consultation done. And there’s a little bit of comedy in thinking about having your colors done. I say that in air quotes because many of us as unmillennials, remember back in the days of the 80s, doing your color, but let me tell you what your color Guru is doing is so far beyond that. And they’re giving you so many tools when you actually have your colors done. And the reason that I say so far beyond that is because back in the day, when we would find out what our colors were, I think it was like four seasons, winter, summer, fall and spring. But your color Guru is much more robust than that. For instance, I’m a moonlit summer which is different than a sunlit summer. And one of the things that I love the most about your color guru and the color consultation that I had done is that it comes with a color card. I have both a printed card that I can throw in my purse, so that when I am out shopping, I can pull that card out of my purse and hold it up to anything that I’m looking at to determine Hey, is this one my best colors. I also have the JPEG on my phone. So if I don’t have the card with me, I just simply look at my phone and it has been invaluable. It makes shopping so much easier. So if you are interested in having your colors gone, or gifting it to someone else, you can get 10% off of your color guru consultation by simply using the code Regan, which is r e g, a n at checkout at your color There’s a link in the show notes.

Regan Jones 1:39
If your skin doesn’t know whether to break out or wrinkle if you’re caught between planning the third grade class party and researching retirement plans or if you want to work out but the idea of CrossFit makes your 40 Something knees ache, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to this unmillennial life.

Regan Jones 2:04
I’m your host Regan Jones and welcome to today’s show. Thanks for letting me take the last couple of Monday’s off if you wondered where I was. There is a National Nutrition conference that happens every fall for registered dietitians. It had been a few years since I had been able to attend. And this year I was actually speaking at the conference about podcasting ironically. So I took the week before the conference to get ready. And I took the week of the conference off. So I do apologize for not bringing you new episodes. But rest assured that I got new ideas at this conference for things that I would love to come back and do episodes on for you here on the show. Now today’s episode, though, has nothing to do with nutrition. If you’ve been a listener of this unmillennial life for a while you know that while I am a registered dietician, and technically a personal trainer, although I do not personally drain anyone by of course, an avid fitness fan for myself, you know that over the years, I do my very best to cover topics that don’t have anything to do with nutrition. And it seems like and looking back over the episodes that I’ve posted recently, there’s been a good bit of nutrition, a good bit about different supplements. And so I hope that you really enjoy today’s episode as a complete departure from a nutrition topic. Now that’s not to say that this is not a health topic. Certainly the connection between dementia and hearing loss. The majority of what today’s episode is about is of extreme importance as we look to ourselves, and our parents, our friends and family and see aging beginning to happen. We’ve talked about parenting aging parents and what some of that looks like. And hearing loss is actually one of those things that some of my friends and I tend to joke about, you know, when we go out to dinner, and we’re really struggling to hear people at the table, it’s kind of been one of these ongoing jokes about oh, we’re just getting older and we can’t hear as well. But when I was told this summer by a member of my family that she had read about the link between dementia and hearing loss, I thought this is something that I want to know more about. So in today’s episode, I am interviewing Dr. Amy Sarow. Dr. Sarow is a lead audiologist for And she’s also a Forbes Health Advisory Board member. She promotes healthy hearing awareness and her perspectives have been featured on NPR in People magazine, GQ Wall Street Journal and more. The first part of this episode we talk about hearing loss in general and then we will get to unpacking what the believed reasons are that tie hearing loss with dementia. So with that, I’ll say Dr. Sarow. Welcome to the show.

Dr. Amy Sarow 4:48
Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Regan Jones

Well, this is a topic that I gotta tell you is a departure from some of the recent topics that we’ve had on the show that have been pretty nutrition-oriented. So I’m really happy to have You and your expertise as an audiologist for Before we jump into really looking at hearing loss, and you know when to test for that, and the topic that I’m most interested in this connection that I’ve learned about hearing loss and dementia, why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about yourself, and then also, since that’s ultimately the way that I discovered you?

Dr. Amy Sarow

Absolutely. So I am an audiologist or a doctor of audiology. I studied in my bachelor’s degree, I actually studied German. So I started my work as a language instructor in Germany. And then when I came back to the US a few years later, and I switched career paths, I was thinking, you know, speech pathology, and I was guided towards audiology, because of the difference you can really make in people’s lives. And helping them communicate, which relates to my teaching experience, as well. So now with sound Lee, I’ve had some work in the clinical realm, but now with sound leave a lot of what I do is education and sharing good information with consumers, helping them to make good decisions about their hearing health care, because it’s a topic that’s come up a lot, especially since the pandemic, and so I just, I love being able to support people and give them the the right information and resources to help them get started in the process. Yeah, because this certainly is an area of healthcare, as you say that I feel like having looked at it over the last decade or so, and seeing people in my life that increasingly are struggling with hearing loss is one that I just don’t think that the average consumer knows that much about, you know, we have this, it seems to me, you can correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me we have this sort of tendency to think that, you know, just only very elderly people are wearing hearing aids, or people that were born maybe with some sort of, you know, hearing their hearing being affected. But I believe the reality is, it’s a much bigger issue for a lot of people at younger ages than than we realize. Would you say that’s the case? Yes, absolutely. You hit the nail on the head. So it’s approximately one in 10. Americans, actually, that has some degree of hearing loss and at least one year, and so most of us know, somebody, it could be a parent could be a sibling, a grandparent. And while hearing loss does affect us, more tend to affect us, as we age, it can affect people of any age, you know, children can be born with hearing loss, or people can develop it in their teens and their 20s in midlife. So definitely, it’s a very important topic to talk about.

Regan Jones

So tell me a little bit about your thoughts on, you know, obviously, we’ve talked about kind of the incidence of hearing loss. But you know, what are some tips that people can take away from this conversation about preventing hearing loss?

Dr. Amy Sarow

Yes, this is a topic that I’ve been talking about a lot. And I’m excited that it’s getting some attention. So one of the biggest trends that we’re seeing right now, in young people actually is Gen Z, and millennials especially, is the headphone use. So that using the earbuds and the headphones and turning the volume all the way up on a phone or an electronic device is leading to noise-induced hearing loss, and we’re expecting in the coming decades, that will affect as many as 1 billion people worldwide. So it’s a really, it’s, it’s a problem. So what I like to tell people are just some practical tips about how what they can do in their daily life to prevent that from happening. So the FDA does not regulate the volume, if you turn it all the way up, and it can go well over 100 decibels, which is enough to cause damage within just 15 minutes or even less. So what I like to say is if you have someone in arm’s length from you, you should still be able to hear that person talking to you, if you can’t hear them. That’s a sign it’s too loud. So thinking about the volume is important. Limiting your time if you’re going to be somewhere where the volume is louder, you know, spending, taking breaks, spending less time in that environment that’s going to help. And then using hearing protection is a big one too. And we’re seeing a lot of companies coming up now with hearing protection that’s more comfortable or a little more stylish. For example, the loop earplugs those are really popular, they come in colors where you know, people who wear them almost as a fashion statement and they’re they’re happy to have them nearby. So those are a couple practical tips. And then just something in general. It all starts with awareness, because sometimes we don’t realize how loud our environments are

or so just having that awareness, maybe using a free decibel meter to check your environment, if you’re curious about that. Okay, so moving away from just the tips about how we can reduce noise induced hearing loss. What about people who are curious about maybe the amount of hearing loss that they’re already experiencing? When Should people consider getting a hearing test? Yes. So this is also an important topic, because so as I mentioned, even younger people now have more noise exposure. And so anyone who’s concerned about their hearing, or maybe they’re in, you know, they, they do target shooting or loud recreational sports, concerts, that sort of thing. I would even recommend people just checking their hearing in their 20s and their 30s. But definitely, I would like everyone to have a baseline hearing test by age 50. If they don’t have any concerns, prior to that. So that’s, that’s definitely my recommendation. Because when we catch hearing loss early, it’s so much easier to treat it stay on top of it, you have that information, and then you can make good decisions from there.

Regan Jones

So much of what we talk about here on this podcast for women, especially at midlife is about just early detection of lots of different issues. And so I think you have certainly made the case for, you know why you need to start with that baseline testing by age 50. Talk to me, though a little bit about what people might otter it automatically be looking for in their lives as maybe common signs of hearing loss that beg the need for going and having some testing done.

Dr. Amy Sarow

So some of the most common signs that people will describe is turning the TV up louder. It sounds like people are mumbling, they’re not speaking clearly. Maybe they feel more fatigued. And this is one where we don’t always notice that it’s because of hearing. But maybe we’re just kind of straining. And by the end of the day, we feel really fatigued, really tired, because we’re working really hard to understand what people are saying. Sometimes people notice they’re feeling more isolated. They’re not feeling like they’re part of the conversation, because they’re having trouble telling, you know, Oh, was that code or code or road? I’m not sure what they said. So it makes them feel, you know, left out. So those are all some common signs that we see if you have also maybe a difference and how you hear from one year to the other. You might have trouble localizing sounds telling where what direction things are coming from.

Regan Jones 12:46
Yeah, so those are a lot of the common ones that we see a couple of things that I picked up on when you talked about straining to hear and you talked about isolation. Those are two of the things that I read about when I first got interested in the in the main topic that I wanted to talk about today. The association between hearing loss and dementia, those were two of the things that were mentioned as potential reasons there is a connection. So as we kind of move over from general hearing loss and specifically unpack the connection between hearing loss and dementia. Can you walk that out? Like what what does the data show about whether or not there is an association? I mean, you know, I could be wrong, maybe there isn’t. But is there Association? And if so, what do we believe are the reasons behind that?

Dr. Amy Sarow

Yes, absolutely. There is an association and you definitely picked up on that aspect of it. So we see there was a study from the Lancet in 2017. And then more recently in 2020, about exactly this topic. So we know with cognitive decline, it’s an area of research that’s growing, and we’re learning about the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline or dementia. There are some modifiable risk factors that we we can do something about now, obviously, some things we can’t like, you can’t change your family history. We can’t do anything about aging, those are things that we can’t change. But things that we can change are, you know, treating hearing loss if we have it, and especially we show that by about age 55 if we can catch it there and intervene, we have about a 32% lower risk, I believe it is of developing dementia. So it’s really important and that’s another reason why I like to recommend the by age 50 baseline because that’s going to catch it before that age. But also when we think about it’s not just the hearing loss, like as we talked about that’s important for a lot of different reasons, but also it changes the other modifiable or potentially my to final risk factors. So hearing loss changes the social dynamics. If you think about how someone with hearing loss is involved in a conversation, like we said, maybe they’re straining to hear, and they thought somebody said they thought somebody told a joke, but actually, they were being serious. You know, how is that person going to feel when they react inappropriately? And then you know, what will? How will that change the way that they interact with individuals or maybe feel more isolated, more prone to depression, and those are also modifiable or potentially modifiable risk factors. So if hearing loss has downstream effects on our health, when a person becomes depressed, then perhaps they’re engaging less with others have less social connection, maybe that’s also giving them less energy to engage in physical activity or to lead a healthy lifestyle. So it’s all related.

Regan Jones

Yeah, I just think it’s fascinating. And the first time that someone ever pointed it out to me that there was a connection. You know, I just, I was actually really very astonished because I thought, Why have I never heard that there’s a connection between hearing loss and dementia. But then when you start seeing why, because of things like you’ve just mentioned, the isolation, the potential awkwardness of social situations, the strain, I mean, one, I believe, one source that I read, and again, you can you’re the expert, you can correct me if I’m wrong, said that there is a belief that the brain is having to struggle so hard to hear and and understand what’s going on that it’s essentially kind of taking energy away from other crucial functions of the brain. Is that based in anything that you believe is credible? Or what are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Amy Sarow

Yes, definitely. So when you think about if you’re straining, or if you’ve, if you’ve been at a presentation, let’s say where the microphone is really low, and you’re wanting to hear what the person is saying, but you can’t hear them really well. So you’re really straining, that is a different kind of listening. You’re trying to get the individual words, rather than using using higher up cognitive processes to think about, okay, what they’re saying is related to something that I read or that I’ve heard about, you’re thinking about, you know, what are your thoughts and feelings about it. So you’re engaging in a deeper level. And when you don’t have those cognitive resources free to engage the brain in other ways, it does limit what what you’re able to do and where your focus is definitely. And we’ve seen that also with fMRI studies. So they tested individuals with hearing loss who had untreated hearing loss, and had them monitored to see what parts of the brain were engaging. And they then they then treated them with hearing aids and had them wear them for a year. And they did see actually, there was a big difference in the parts of the brain that were engaging when they were listening to speech. And so we believe that those connections help us to keep cognitively sharp to keep you know, as we say, when if you don’t use it, you lose it like with muscles, when you engage the brain like that it can help to preserve cognition and maintain what we have.

Regan Jones

That is just I’m sorry, but it’s so fascinating to me, because this is an area a lot of times I do, you know, interviews that are related to my field of study, which is nutrition. And sometimes things pop up and I think, oh, gosh, I’ve never heard that before. But this is information that’s so new to me, and so fascinating. And so timely. Now, you mentioned that sort of age 50 For baseline, and by age 55, potentially intervening and reducing that, that risk of dementia. Let’s talk about intervention. Let’s talk about something that you just mentioned, hearing aids, I think that’s probably the next most logical question, because we’ve talked about, you know, sort of what the problem is, but we need to talk about the solution. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, there has historically been a stigma around hearing aids and I don’t think if hearing aids were quite as easy to get as maybe they are now and I know that soundly has some resources in helping people pick out you know, kind of what they’re looking for. So let’s talk about intervening hearing aids and what offers.

Dr. Amy Sarow

You know, over the counter hearing aids recently came onto the market and October of last year, October 2022. And that was when we saw a lot of interest in people trying to figure out okay, I feel like I have a problem, I want to address it. But how do I get started? What do I do? Because it is a little bit confusing to navigate. You know, there are people that are saying, okay, I can buy this over the counter. But is that my best option? Or should I see somebody? What about Costco? You know, there’s so many different routes you can go to get treatment, to find hearing aids. So we like to help people by giving them resources. So on, for example, we have a free hearing test. It’s like a screening, you can do that at home comfortably with headphones in a quiet area, that just gives you an idea, you know, do I have something that needs to be further examined? And then you can go have a comprehensive hearing test with an audiologist. But the best way to get started is to get that first hearing test, because that will tell you, you know, what is my hearing? Like, do I have some hearing loss? What does that look like? Also the person who tests your hearing, ideally, an audiologist can tell you something about if you do have hearing loss, what your best options are, or what might be specific. In your case, for example, some people have a lot of difficulty putting something in their ear, if they’ve noticed, gosh, when I wear headphones, they just don’t stay in. And maybe they have, you know, a narrow ear canal or unusual ear canal geometry, maybe they need a special fit peace. Now, if you have mild to moderate hearing loss, you feel somewhat tech savvy, you’re comfortable with doing things on your own, over the counter options are something that you can try. And some people get started that way. And I like to tell people, if you do over the counter, that’s great. I’m excited to see people you know, take that first step, it’s also important to know your return options, because sometimes people try it and they realize, well, maybe this maybe I should do something different. Maybe I need to see someone so I like them to have all that information. But on, we also talk about you know, different types of hearing aids, who’s there’s different brands, and we provide all that information there for people.

Regan Jones

It’s a wonderful resource. And I have spent a little bit of time on there looking. And I think the fact that you offer a unit that’s very basic, do it yourself at home initial free hearing test is something that can get people started kind of evaluating, you’ve talked about some of the symptoms that you might already be looking at. And then just being able to give people insight into what is now really a much larger and broader world of hearing aids than ever, ever before. Dr. Sorrow on this topic, is there anything else that I haven’t asked you about that you think listeners need to know?

Dr. Amy Sarow 22:58
I guess something else that I would mention is sometimes when people think hearing aids, they think, Oh, this is going to be those large beige devices that really stick out. And we at We’re also working on stigma, and reducing that there are a lot of images that you’ll see in newspapers and magazines where they they are outdated devices. So I’d like people to know that there are really modern devices that are sleek, you almost don’t notice them when you’re wearing them. And so there are ways to to treat your hearing loss, do it comfortably, and also sometimes even stylish.

Regan Jones

I think it’s wonderful that you all have a mission to start reducing stigma as I was listening to you talk, you know, I really thought about, there’s no stigma these days around people wearing glasses that I know of. I mean, I think it’s just sort of, you know, universally accepted that many people need glasses. And when you think about the other big sense that we all are blessed to have if we have our hearing, there’s so much stigma around hearing aids, but it’s very similar, really, when you think about it to the support that we need when we wear glasses. So I think it’s wonderful that you guys are providing that information, and also providing those resources and trying to potentially, you know, turn that around in terms of d stigmatizing the use of of hearing aids. Well, Dr. Sorrow, you have just been a wealth of knowledge today, and I appreciate it before you go, will you just remind people about the website and then if there’s any way that they can connect with you online that you’d like to let them know, please do that as well.

Dr. Amy Sarow

Absolutely. Well, it was a pleasure to be on the show today with you and you can find I’ve written a lot of articles there on various topics relating to hearing health care. I’m also a member of the Forbes health advisory board so you may see me do In some of those articles there, and you can also find me on LinkedIn. And my last name is spelled S A R O W. Thanks so much for having me.

Regan Jones

That wraps up my interview with Dr. Sorrow. I of course will place a link in the show notes to not only Dr. Sorrows profile, but also, where you can take the free hearing test initial screening that Dr. Sardo talked about, and she also mentioned the loop earplugs, I’m gonna place the link in the show notes for those as well. I know for many of us when we travel or if we have someone that in our home who snores at night that we’re trying to drown out a little bit of that noise earplugs can be a game changer. And the fact that she mentioned how comfortable these were, and this is her area of expertise, I thought it is worth sharing a link with you. Okay, I’m going to take a quick commercial break and then I will come back for the odds and ends ending of today’s show

Regan Jones 26:00
Welcome back. So today’s episode is from top to bottom, not nutrition related. As a matter of fact, in the odds and ends ending of today’s show, I want to tell you about a beauty product air quotes beauty product that was shared with me a couple of years ago, and I didn’t try them out. And recently in attending a nutrition conference where I wanted my nails, fingernails to look the best that they could, but frankly didn’t have the time. And honestly really right now don’t have the budget to be going and getting manicures, I did my own home manicure with press on nails now as an unrelenting will when I say press on nails, you probably if you’re not familiar with the new generation of personal nails, you may be having like horror flashback backs to the press on nails of the 80s. But man that is a part of over the counter, do it yourself beauty that has really, really improved over the years. At some point in the last few years. I know I mentioned in an odds and ends ending color street nails, which at the time I was able to get from a friend I would purchase from her she’s not selling them anymore. And I have never really seen those types of films, they’re basically adhesive films that you fit on your nails. I’m not saying those over the counter at you know, the pharmacy slash drugstore, they may exist you may know of some and if you know of some and you like them, and they’re easy to come by and afford affordable sharing with me, I’d love to know more about them and even consider sharing them here on the show. But the nails that I’m actually referring to are by a brand called impress. And these truly are press on nails, but they come in beautiful colors, they’re super easy to apply, all you have to do is peel the backing off and stick them on your nails. They’re pretty secure for a good length of time. And they’re easily customizable and trimmable. I’m a pretty basic person. So I just went with you know, just like a basic cream, but they have all sorts of different colors. And they even make these types of press on nails for your feet. And as I said when I started this as an NS ending segment, these were recommended to me a couple of years ago and somebody sent me a picture and showed me how good they looked and I kind of passed it off. But again in wanting to have a better looking set of nails. For a recent trip I decided to give them a try. They’re so inexpensive on Amazon, they run anywhere from six to $7 and there are 30 different nails in each one. The only thing that I have found that is a little bit difficult is once they begin to start lifting off of the back of your nails towards your cuticles, they really can get stuck in your hair when you like run your fingers through your hair. So you know they’re not maybe the option to keep on forever long term. But if you are like me and find yourself maybe at some point in a bind, you don’t have time to go get a manicure or you don’t want to use that part of your beauty budget to go get a manicure then you may want to give the impress nails a try. And as I do with lots of the products that I recommend, here on the show, I’m going to place a link in the show notes to my Amazon affiliate link. And I have no affiliation with this company. I am as an Amazon affiliate, anytime I reference something or link to it on Amazon, I might receive a small commission if you purchase but your price will always stay the same but want to be sure that we are clear on all of that. And with that I will just thank you for tuning in to today’s episode. If you’ve been around for a while and you’re a fan of this unmillennial life can I ask you to consider leaving a rating and a review for the show that is one of the best ways for podcasts to know that you are a fan of this unmillennial life and equally as importantly, it gives them a nod to share it with other people that it might be a good fit for but Really, the best way that people find out about this unmillennial life is word of mouth. So if I could ask you to share this episode with someone that you think might enjoy it, I would be so appreciative. As always, thank you for listening, subscribing, downloading and of course, sharing with a friend. I hope you have a great week.


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