Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unconnected health disorders could have a pathological connection. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help combat it?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, 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 common form. About five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive type of dementia. Exactly how hearing health impacts the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are very intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain translates.
As time passes, many individuals develop a slow decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot harder because of the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.
Research indicates that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t only an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted 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:
- Memory impairment
- Reduction in alertness
- Inability to master new tasks
- Overall diminished health
And the more severe your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. Even mild hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and a person with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing dementia. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They revealed that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive problems.
Why is a hearing assessment worthwhile?
Hearing loss affects the overall health and that would probably surprise many individuals. Most individuals don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s less noticeable.
We will be able to effectively assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to decrease the danger
The present theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big part in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. The stress on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to understand the audio messages it’s receiving.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss speeds up that decline. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re concerned that you may be coping with hearing loss.