Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to comprehend. It was discovered that even minor untreated hearing loss raises your risk of developing dementia.

Researchers think that there may be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So how can a hearing exam help minimize the danger of hearing loss related dementia?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline the majority of people think of when they hear the word dementia. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive kind of dementia. Exactly how hearing health effects the risk of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.

How hearing works

The ear components are quite complex 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 vibrate in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain decodes.

As time passes, many people develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the decrease of electrical signals to the brain.

This progressive hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not accurate. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the additional effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher risk of developing dementia.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that lead to:

  • Irritability
  • Overall diminished health
  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Impaired memory

The risk of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, too. Even minor hearing loss can double the danger of cognitive decline. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and a person with severe, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing cognitive decline. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They found that hearing loss advanced enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive problems.

Why a hearing exam matters

Hearing loss affects the general health and that would probably surprise many individuals. Most people don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is not so obvious.

Scheduling routine comprehensive assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly assess hearing health and monitor any decline as it happens.

Minimizing the danger with hearing aids

Scientists presently believe that the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain stress that hearing loss produces. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and relieves the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to understand the sounds it’s receiving.

There is no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive issues. The key to decreasing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.

If you’re worried that you may be suffering from hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing assessment.

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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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