Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to understand. It was found that even mild neglected hearing impairment increases your risk of developing dementia.

Scientists think that there might be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does loss of hearing put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing exam help combat it?

Dementia, what is it?

Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. People often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects around five million people in the U.S. Exactly how hearing health effects the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.

How hearing works

In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Electrical signals are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to waves of sound.

Over time, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot harder due to the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.

This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that result in:

  • Impaired memory
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Irritability
  • Weak overall health
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Exhaustion
  • Depression

The likelihood of developing dementia can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, too. Even mild hearing loss can double the danger of dementia. 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 higher danger. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They discovered that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to cause memory and cognitive problems.

Why a hearing exam matters

Not everybody understands how even slight hearing loss affects their general health. For most people, the decline is progressive so they don’t always realize there is an issue. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.

Scheduling regular comprehensive assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to effectively evaluate hearing health and monitor any decline as it occurs.

Using hearing aids to reduce the risk

Scientists presently believe that the link between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss causes. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and alleviates the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s getting.

There’s no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive problems. Getting regular hearing tests to diagnose and treat hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.

If you’re worried that you may be suffering from hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing evaluation.

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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.