What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of developing dementia is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unconnected health conditions could have a pathological connection. So how can a hearing test help minimize the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
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 most likely because it is a common form. About five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive type of dementia. Precisely how hearing health effects the risk 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. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain translates.
Over time, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these fragile hair cells. The result is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to comprehend sound.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that result in:
- Trouble learning new skills
- Reduction in alertness
- Memory impairment
- Weak overall health
And the more extreme your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. Someone with only mild impairment has double the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory issues are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing exam matters
Hearing loss impacts the general health and that would most likely surprise many people. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s less obvious.
Scheduling regular comprehensive exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly evaluate hearing health and observe any decline as it occurs.
Decreasing the risk with hearing aids
The current hypothesis is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big role in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and eases the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive issues. Having regular hearing tests to identify and deal with hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to reducing that risk.
Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss.