Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Connection?


Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

Want to take all the fun out of your next family get-together? Start talking about dementia.

Dementia isn’t a topic most individuals are intentionally looking to talk about, mainly because it’s rather frightening. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, causes you to lose touch with reality, experience memory loss, and causes an over-all loss of mental function. It isn’t something anyone looks forward to.

So stopping or at least slowing dementia is important for many individuals. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have some pretty clear connections and correlations.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (a lot, it turns out)? Why are the risks of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What takes place when your hearing impairment goes untreated?

You recognize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of concerns. You can simply crank up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

Or maybe your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Maybe the signs are still subtle. Mental decline and hearing impairment are strongly linked either way. That might have something to do with what occurs when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. You could begin to keep yourself isolated from others as a result of this. You may become distant from loved ones and friends. You speak to others less. It’s bad for your brain to separate yourself like this. Not to mention your social life. Further, most individuals who have this sort of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will begin to work a lot harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This is extremely taxing. The present theory is, when this takes place, your brain draws power from your thinking and memory centers. The thinking is that after a while this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Mental stress and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain having to work so hard.

So your hearing impairment isn’t quite as innocuous as you may have believed.

Hearing loss is one of the leading indicators of dementia

Let’s say you just have mild hearing impairment. Whispers may get lost, but you can hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.

Which means that even minor hearing loss is a pretty good initial sign of a dementia risk.

Now… What does that mean?

We’re considering risk in this situation which is important to note. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of cognitive decline or even an early symptom of dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have an increased chance of developing cognitive decline. But that can actually be good news.

Because it means that effectively dealing with your hearing loss can help you reduce your risk of cognitive decline. So how can hearing loss be managed? Here are a few ways:

  • Make an appointment with us to diagnose your current hearing loss.
  • The impact of hearing loss can be decreased by using hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids stop dementia? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be enhanced by using hearing aids. Here’s why: You’ll be able to participate in more discussions, your brain won’t have to work as hard, and you’ll be a little more socially connected. Your chance of developing dementia in the future is minimized by managing hearing loss, research suggests. That isn’t the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.
  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are some measures you can take to protect your hearing. You could, for instance, use ear protection if you work in a noisy environment and steer clear of noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.

Other ways to lower your dementia risk

Naturally, there are other things you can do to decrease your chance of cognitive decline, too. This might include:

  • Be sure you get enough sleep each night. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep per night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • Exercise is needed for good general health including hearing health.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will raise your risk of dementia and will impact your general health (excess alcohol use is also on this list).
  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. In some cases, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals may need medication sooner rather than later.

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being studied by scientists. There are so many causes that make this disease so complex. But any way you can reduce your risk is good.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help reduce your overall danger of developing dementia in the future. You’ll be bettering your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely trips to the grocery store.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And a small amount of hearing loss management, possibly in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

So call us today for an appointment.

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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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