Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting dementia is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.

These two seemingly unrelated health conditions might have a pathological connection. So how can a hearing test help minimize the danger of hearing loss related dementia?

What is dementia?

The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear mechanisms are quite intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain translates.

As time passes, many people develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these delicate hair cells. The outcome is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.

Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more susceptible to developing cognitive decline.

Here are several disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:

  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Irritability
  • Exhaustion
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Overall diminished health

And the more extreme your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. Even mild hearing loss can double the risk of cognitive decline. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and somebody with extreme, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They found that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive issues.

Why is a hearing assessment worthwhile?

Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would most likely surprise many people. Most people don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

Scheduling regular thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly assess hearing health and monitor any decline as it occurs.

Reducing the risk with hearing aids

The present hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant role in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. Based on that one fact, you could conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. The strain on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work as hard to understand the audio messages it’s getting.

There’s no rule that says people who have normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive issues. Having regular hearing tests to diagnose and deal with hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.

Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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