Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of developing dementia is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions could have a pathological connection. So how can a hearing exam help decrease the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and decrease socialization skills. People often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a common form. Around five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive type of dementia. Exactly how hearing health effects the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the intricate ear mechanism matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Electrical signals are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to waves of sound.
Over the years these tiny hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud noise. Comprehension of sound becomes much harder because of the decrease of electrical signals to the brain.
Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. That effort puts strain on the ear, making the individual struggling to hear more susceptible to developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for lots of diseases that result in:
- Overall diminished health
- Memory impairment
- Reduction in alertness
- Trouble learning new skills
The likelihood of developing dementia can increase based on the severity of your hearing loss, too. A person with just minor impairment has twice the risk. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and extremely severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater risk. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They discovered that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive problems.
Why a hearing test matters
Not everybody realizes how even slight hearing loss affects their general health. Most individuals don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they happen with regular hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
Scientists currently think that the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain stress that hearing loss causes. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and alleviates the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to understand the audio messages it’s getting.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive issues. The key to decreasing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
If you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing evaluation.