What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to understand. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
Scientists believe that there may be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does loss of hearing put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help fight 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 common type of cognitive decline the majority of people think of when they hear the word dementia. Around five million people in the US are affected by this progressive type of dementia. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how ear health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear components are extremely intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are boosted as they move toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical impulses that the brain translates.
Over time, many individuals develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot more difficult due to the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not accurate. 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 extra effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher risk of developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that result in:
- Trouble learning new skills
- Impaired memory
- Reduction in alertness
- Overall diminished health
And the more significant your hearing loss the higher your risk of dementia. Even minor hearing loss can double the danger of dementia. More advanced hearing loss means three times the danger and a person with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive issues are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing assessment matters
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would probably surprise many individuals. Most people don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.
Scheduling routine comprehensive exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to effectively evaluate hearing health and monitor any decline as it happens.
Using hearing aids to decrease the danger
Scientists currently think that the connection between dementia and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain strain that hearing loss causes. 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 disrupts your hearing and alleviates the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to understand the audio messages it’s getting.
There’s no rule that says people with normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive problems. Getting routine hearing tests to diagnose and deal with hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
If you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing examination.