What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was discovered that even minor neglected hearing loss raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
These two seemingly unconnected health conditions could have a pathological connection. So, how does loss of hearing put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help fight it?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent form of cognitive decline the majority of individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects around five million people in the U.S. Exactly how hearing health impacts the risk of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are quite intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are boosted as they move toward the inner ear. Electrical signals are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to waves of sound.
As time passes, many individuals develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot harder because of the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not accurate. Whether the impulses are unclear and jumbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the ear, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Reduction in alertness
- Memory impairment
- Overall diminished health
- Trouble learning new skills
The odds of developing dementia can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Someone with only minor impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater risk. Research by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They discovered that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing assessment matters
Not everyone realizes how even minor hearing loss affects their general health. For most, the decline is gradual 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 properly assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with routine hearing exams.
Decreasing the danger with hearing aids
The current theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a major role in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. The stress 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 so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s receiving.
There is no rule that says people with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. But scientists think hearing loss quickens that decline. Getting routine hearing exams to diagnose and treat hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.
Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss.