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 starting to understand. It was found that even mild untreated hearing loss raises your risk of developing dementia.

These two seemingly unconnected health conditions may have a pathological link. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the danger of hearing loss related dementia?

Dementia, what is it?

Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Individuals tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a prevalent form. Around five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive kind of dementia. Today, medical science has a complete understanding of how ear health increases the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear mechanisms are very complex and each one matters in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. 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 time, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot more difficult due to the reduction of electrical signals to the brain.

This gradual hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the extra effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher chance of developing dementia.

Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:

  • Reduction in alertness
  • Memory impairment
  • Exhaustion
  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Overall diminished health
  • Depression
  • Irritability

The risk of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the degree of your hearing loss, also. Even mild hearing loss can double the danger of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They discovered that hearing loss advanced enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive problems.

Why is a hearing exam important?

Not everybody appreciates how even minor hearing loss impacts their overall health. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s less noticeable.

Scheduling routine thorough assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly evaluate hearing health and observe any decline as it occurs.

Decreasing the danger with hearing aids

The current theory is that strain 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. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and relieves the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work as hard to understand the audio messages it’s getting.

There is no rule that says people with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss quickens that decline. Having regular hearing tests to identify and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.

If you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing examination.

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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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