What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to understand. It was found that even mild neglected hearing impairment increases your risk of developing dementia.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders may have a pathological connection. So, how does hearing loss 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 group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. Exactly how hearing health effects the danger of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the complex ear mechanism 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 waves of sound.
Over time, many people develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much harder due to the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not accurate. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the additional effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher risk of developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that result in:
- Impaired memory
- Inability to master new tasks
- Reduction in alertness
- Overall diminished health
The likelihood of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Somebody with just minor hearing loss has twice the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and somebody with severe, neglected 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. 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 a hearing assessment matters
Not everyone understands how even a little hearing loss impacts their overall health. Most people don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.
We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with regular hearing exams.
Reducing the risk with hearing aids
Scientists currently think that the relationship between dementia and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain stress that hearing loss produces. 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 eases the strain on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
There is no rule that says people with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive issues. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you may be coping with hearing loss.