What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of developing cognitive decline is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders might have a pathological connection. So, how does hearing loss put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing exam help fight it?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. People often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a common form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects around five million people in the U.S. Precisely how hearing health effects the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are very intricate and each one is important in relation 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 shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain translates.
Over time these little hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud noise. The outcome is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not the case. Whether the impulses are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for lots of diseases that result in:
- Memory impairment
- Inability to master new tasks
- Weak overall health
- Reduction in alertness
And the more significant your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. Someone with only mild impairment has twice the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and somebody with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. Research by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory 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 impacts the general health and that would probably surprise many individuals. For most people, the decline is slow so they don’t always recognize there is an issue. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
Scheduling routine thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly evaluate hearing health and monitor any decline as it happens.
Decreasing the danger with hearing aids
The present theory is that stress 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 reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work as hard to comprehend the sounds it’s receiving.
There is no rule that says people with normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive problems. Getting regular hearing tests to detect and deal with hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
If you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing examination.