Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to comprehend. Your risk of getting dementia is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.

These two seemingly unrelated health conditions could have a pathological link. So, how does hearing loss put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. People often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a prevalent form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects around five million people in the U.S. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how ear health increases the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

When it comes to good hearing, every part of the intricate ear mechanism matters. As waves of sound vibration travel 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 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 more difficult due to the decrease 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 accurate. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that lead to:

  • Overall diminished health
  • Exhaustion
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Impaired memory

The risk of developing dementia can increase based on the severity of your hearing loss, also. An individual with only minor impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They found that hearing loss significant enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive problems.

Why a hearing exam matters

Hearing loss affects the general health and that would probably surprise many individuals. For most people, the decline is progressive so they don’t always know there is an issue. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.

Reducing the danger with hearing aids

Scientists presently believe that the relationship between dementia and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain strain that hearing loss causes. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work as hard to comprehend the sounds it’s getting.

There is no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss quickens that decline. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing exams to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.

If you’re concerned that you may be suffering from hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing evaluation.

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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.