What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was discovered that even mild untreated hearing impairment raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders could have a pathological link. 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 reduces memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline most individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts around five million people in the U.S. Precisely how hearing health effects the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain decodes.
Over time, many people develop a gradual 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 reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not the case. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the additional effort to hear and this can eventually result in a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:
- Overall diminished health
- Inability to master new tasks
- Memory impairment
- Reduction in alertness
The risk of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Even slight hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University tracked 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 significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing test matters
Hearing loss affects the general health and that would probably surprise many people. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
Scheduling regular thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to effectively evaluate hearing health and track any decline as it takes place.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
Scientists currently believe that the relationship between cognitive decline and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain strain that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The strain on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
Individuals 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 chances of cognitive issues. Having routine hearing tests to diagnose and treat 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 coping with hearing loss.