What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to understand. It was found that even mild neglected hearing loss raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions might have a pathological connection. So, how does loss of hearing put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help fight it?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. Individuals tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects about five million people in the U.S. Precisely how hearing health impacts the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re 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.
Over the years these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot more difficult because of the decrease of electrical signals to the brain.
Research indicates that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the impulses are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the extra effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher chance of developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:
- Reduction in alertness
- Overall diminished health
- Inability to master new tasks
- Impaired memory
And the more extreme your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. An individual with just mild hearing loss has twice the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and someone with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing dementia. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why is a hearing assessment worthwhile?
Hearing loss affects the general health and that would probably surprise many people. For most people, the decline is progressive so they don’t always realize there is an issue. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.
We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and track any changes as they occur with routine hearing exams.
Minimizing the risk with hearing aids
The current theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a major part in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work as hard to comprehend the sounds it’s getting.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive issues. The key to decreasing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss.