Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Link?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will most likely put a dark cloud above the entire event.

The topic of dementia can be really frightening and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. A degenerative cognitive disease in which you slowly (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory problems. It’s not something anyone looks forward to.

This is why many individuals are looking for a way to counter, or at least delay, the advancement of dementia. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the dangers of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the consequences?

Maybe you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you’re not too worried about it. You can simply turn up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll simply put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Maybe the signs are still easy to disregard. Either way, hearing loss and mental decline have a solid correlation. That could have something to do with what occurs when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. You could start to keep yourself isolated from others as a result of this. You might become distant from loved ones and friends. You speak to others less. It’s not good for your brain to isolate yourself this way. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most individuals who have this kind of isolation won’t even recognize that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working harder. Your ears will collect less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. Your brain will then have to get additional power from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the present theory). It’s believed that this may quicken the onset of cognitive decline. Your brain working so hard can also cause all kinds of other symptoms, such as mental stress and tiredness.

So your hearing impairment is not quite as harmless as you may have believed.

Hearing loss is one of the leading signs of dementia

Let’s say you only have slight hearing loss. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else sounds normal. Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.

Meaning that even mild hearing loss is a pretty good initial indication of a risk of dementia.

Now… What does that suggest?

We’re considering risk in this circumstance which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a greater risk of developing cognitive decline. But there might be an upside.

Because it means that effectively dealing with your hearing loss can help you reduce your risk of cognitive decline. So how can you deal with your hearing loss? There are a number of ways:

  • Using a hearing aid can help reduce the impact of hearing loss. So, can dementia be stopped by using hearing aids? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be enhanced by using hearing aids. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be able to participate in more discussions, your brain won’t have to work as hard, and you’ll be a little more socially involved. Research implies that managing hearing loss can help minimize your risk of developing dementia when you get older. That’s not the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.
  • Schedule an appointment with us to diagnose your current hearing loss.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your hearing. As an example, you could stay away from noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re near anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).

Lowering your chance of dementia – other methods

You can decrease your chance of dementia by doing some other things as well, of course. Here are a few examples:

  • Exercise is necessary for good overall health including hearing health.
  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. Sometimes, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those people could need medication sooner than later.
  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep each night. Some studies link fewer than four hours of sleep each night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will raise your chance of cognitive decline and will impact your general health (excessive alcohol use is also on this list).

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being examined by scientists. It’s a complex disease with a matrix of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help reduce your general risk of developing cognitive decline in the future. But it isn’t only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely trips to the grocery store.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And a little bit of hearing loss management, perhaps in the form of a hearing aid, can help considerably.

So call us today for an appointment.



The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.