What’s the Link Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

If you start talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will probably put a dark cloud over the entire event.

The topic of dementia can be really frightening and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, makes you lose a grip on reality, experience memory loss, and brings about a general loss of mental function. Nobody wants to experience that.

So stopping or at least delaying dementia is important for many individuals. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (a lot, actually)? Why are the dangers of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

Perhaps you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you aren’t that worried about it. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your tv won’t fix, right? Maybe you’ll simply put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

But then again, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Perhaps the signs are still easy to disregard. In either case, hearing loss and mental decline have a strong connection. That could have something to do with what occurs when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. As a result, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You might become removed from loved ones and friends. You speak to others less. It’s not good for your brain to isolate yourself like this. It’s not good for your social life either. What’s more, many individuals who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they likely won’t connect their isolation to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is sort of obvious, yes, but stay with us). Because of this, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. The current theory is, when this takes place, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. The thinking is that after a while this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Your brain working so hard can also result in all kinds of other symptoms, like mental stress and tiredness.

So your hearing impairment is not quite as harmless as you may have thought.

One of the major indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Perhaps your hearing loss is mild. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else is just fine. Well, even with that, your risk of developing dementia is doubled.

So one of the preliminary indications of dementia can be even minor hearing loss.

So… How should we understand this?

Well, it’s essential not to forget that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there’s no guarantee it will lead to dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have an increased chance of developing cognitive decline. But that might actually be good news.

Because it means that successfully dealing with your hearing loss can help you reduce your chance of dementia. So how can hearing loss be addressed? Here are several ways:

  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your hearing. You could, for instance, wear ear protection if you work in a loud setting and steer clear of noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.
  • Make an appointment with us to identify your existing hearing loss.
  • The impact of hearing loss can be minimized by using hearing aids. So, can dementia be prevented by using hearing aids? That’s hard to say, but hearing aids can enhance brain function. This is why: You’ll be able to participate in more conversations, your brain won’t have to work so hard, and you’ll be a little more socially involved. Research implies that managing hearing loss can help reduce your risk of developing dementia when you get older. That’s not the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other strategies

You can reduce your chance of cognitive decline by doing some other things as well, of course. Here are some examples:

  • Get some exercise.
  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep every night. Some research links a higher risk of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep each night.
  • Eating a healthy diet, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. Sometimes, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals could need medication sooner rather than later.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, and that includes your chance of experiencing dementia (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).

Of course, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complex disease with a matrix of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your general risk of dementia. But it’s not just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s now. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely trips to the grocery store.

It’s no fun missing out on life’s important moments. And a small amount of hearing loss management, perhaps in the form of a hearing aid, can help considerably.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us right away!



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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