What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of developing cognitive decline is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders might have a pathological connection. So, how does loss of hearing put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type of cognitive decline the majority of people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects about five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a complete understanding of how ear health alters the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are very complex and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain translates.
As time passes, many individuals develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these delicate hair cells. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
Research indicates that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the additional effort to hear and this can eventually result in a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that result in:
- Reduction in alertness
- Weak overall health
- Trouble learning new skills
- Memory impairment
The likelihood of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the degree of your hearing loss, too. Even slight hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory issues are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why is a hearing exam worthwhile?
Not everyone understands how even slight hearing loss affects their general health. For most people, the decline is progressive so they don’t always recognize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to effectively assess your hearing health and track any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to decrease the risk
Scientists currently think that the relationship between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work as hard to understand the sounds it’s receiving.
There is no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. But scientists think hearing loss speeds up that decline. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
Call or Text Us today to make an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss.