Can you HEAR dementia coming?

This could be one of the most important steps of all toward protecting your brain against the ravages of age and slashing your risk of dementia.

And it's something your doctor probably won't even mention!

Most folks don't get a hearing test unless they suspect something is wrong, but you know how that goes.

Most folks who have hearing loss don't think ANYTHING'S wrong!

They don't realize it, won't admit it, won't take action, don't get tested, and never get help.

Now, new research shows how this form of ignorance definitely isn't bliss, revealing a link between hearing loss and cognitive struggles up to and including dementia.

The new analysis looked at 36 other studies conducted around the world and at first -- surprise! -- didn't find much of a link.

But once they weeded out the weaker studies and focused just on the highest-quality research, the link came in loud and clear.

Overall, folks with hearing loss face a 22 percent higher risk of any form of cognitive problems.

Even worse, that same hearing loss will increase your risk of dementia by 28 percent.

That means millions of people are facing these risks right now, over something that's easy enough to correct.

Easy enough, but a second study finds that just 1 in 5 older adults have had their hearing checked within the past five years.

That's it.

Even people who admit they have hearing loss rarely get tested, with nearly 3 out of 4 saying that they haven't been checked out.

That means ALL of them are at risk for dementia, as hearing loss can damage your brain in at least two ways.

The first is pretty direct.

When you lose hearing, the part of the brain that processes those signals and helps you interpret and understand what's being said can go silent, and that can have an effect on your overall cognition.

The second is the inevitable result of untreated hearing loss: You miss out on social engagement, which is a major part of brain health.

Some folks even withdraw and stop going out. They'd rather stay in than admit they have hearing problems!

There's no reason for this.

Hearing loss is easy to fix, and doing so will improve your lifestyle immeasurably, making everything from driving to watching TV to talking with your loved ones so much easier.

You can even go to the movies again and not have to worry about missing out on half the dialogue.

All you need is a hearing aid.

The downside is that many forms of insurance don't cover hearing aids... or they will cover the exam but not the device itself.

Shop around.

A growing number of retailers -- including big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco -- are offering comfortable, effective, and more affordable options