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 link which medical science is beginning to comprehend. Your risk of getting dementia is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.

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

What is dementia?

The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent form of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Around five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive form of dementia. Precisely how hearing health impacts the risk of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.

How hearing works

When it comes to good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to sound waves.

Over the years these little hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot more difficult because of the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.

Research reveals that this slow loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. That effort puts strain on the ear, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing cognitive decline.

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

  • Reduction in alertness
  • Exhaustion
  • Overall diminished health
  • Memory impairment
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Depression
  • Irritability

The likelihood of developing dementia can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Even mild hearing loss can double the risk of cognitive decline. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and someone with extreme, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing dementia. Research by Johns Hopkins University tracked 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 significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why is a hearing test worthwhile?

Hearing loss impacts the general health and that would probably surprise many people. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is not so obvious.

Scheduling routine thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to effectively evaluate hearing health and observe any decline as it happens.

Minimizing the risk with hearing aids

Scientists presently believe that the connection between dementia and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain strain that hearing loss produces. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and eases the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.

There is no rule that says people who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive problems. Getting regular hearing exams to diagnose and deal with hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.

Contact us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss.

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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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