Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of developing cognitive decline is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
Scientists believe that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does hearing loss put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing exam help combat it?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent 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 type of dementia. Exactly how hearing health impacts the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are boosted as they move toward the inner ear. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to waves of sound.
As time passes, many individuals develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. The result is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to comprehend sound.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not the case. Whether the impulses are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the additional effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher chance of developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for lots of diseases that result in:
- Memory impairment
- Weak overall health
- Trouble learning new skills
- Reduction in alertness
The likelihood of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, also. An individual with only mild impairment has double the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and someone with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why is a hearing test important?
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would most likely surprise many people. For most, the decline is progressive so they don’t always know there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.
Reducing the danger with hearing aids
Scientists presently believe that the link between cognitive decline 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 amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and alleviates the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to comprehend the sounds it’s receiving.
There’s no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive issues. Having regular hearing exams to diagnose and manage hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.
Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss.