Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of developing dementia is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.

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

What is dementia?

The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Around five million people in the US are affected by this progressive form of dementia. These days, medical science has a complete understanding of how hearing health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Electrical signals are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to sound waves.

As time passes, many people develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.

Research indicates that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the additional effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher chance of developing dementia.

Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:

  • Memory impairment
  • Depression
  • Weak overall health
  • Irritability
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Exhaustion
  • Reduction in alertness

The risk of developing dementia can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, also. Even minor hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and a person with extreme, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They discovered that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to cause memory and cognitive issues.

Why is a hearing test worthwhile?

Not everyone appreciates how even a little hearing loss impacts their general health. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

Scheduling regular comprehensive exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to effectively assess hearing health and observe any decline as it takes place.

Using hearing aids to reduce the danger

The present theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant part in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and alleviates the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to understand the audio messages it’s receiving.

People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists think hearing loss quickens that decline. Getting regular hearing exams to detect and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.

Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried 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.