Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to understand. It was discovered that even mild untreated hearing impairment raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
Scientists believe that there might be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help fight it?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a prevalent form. Around five million people in the US are affected by this progressive kind of dementia. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health increases the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain decodes.
Over time, many individuals develop a slow decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these fragile hair cells. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to understand sound.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not the case. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the ear, making the individual struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:
- Impaired memory
- Reduction in alertness
- Weak overall health
- Trouble learning new skills
And the more extreme your hearing loss the higher your risk of dementia. Even minor hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and someone with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing dementia. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive issues 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 important?
Hearing loss impacts the general health and that would probably surprise many individuals. For most, the decline is slow so they don’t always realize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
Scheduling routine comprehensive assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly evaluate hearing health and observe any decline as it happens.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
Scientists presently believe 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 capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and alleviates the strain on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. But scientists think hearing loss accelerates that decline. The key to decreasing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
If you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing assessment.