What’s the Connection Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

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

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will probably put a dark cloud above the entire event.

The subject of dementia can be really scary and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, causes you to lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory, and causes an over-all loss of mental faculties. It’s not something anyone looks forward to.

So stopping or at least slowing dementia is important for many people. There are several clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

You might be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, it turns out)? Why does hearing loss raise chances of dementia?

When you disregard hearing loss, what are the consequences?

Maybe you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you aren’t that worried about it. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your tv won’t solve, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just put on the captions.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unobserved so far. Maybe the signs are still hard to detect. In either case, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a strong connection. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. You could start to keep yourself secluded from others because of this. You can draw away from friends, family, and loved ones. You’ll talk to others less. It’s not good for your brain to isolate yourself like this. And naturally your social life. What’s more, many people who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they most likely won’t connect their isolation to their hearing.
  • Your brain will start to work a lot harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. Because of this, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This is extremely taxing. The current theory is, when this occurs, your brain draws power from your thought and memory centers. It’s thought that this could speed up the onset of cognitive decline. Your brain working so hard can also result in all manner of other symptoms, such as mental stress and exhaustion.

You may have thought that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.

One of the major signs of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you have only mild hearing loss. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else sounds just fine. Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.

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

Now… What does that suggest?

We’re looking at risk in this situation which is relevant to note. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of dementia or even an early symptom of dementia. Rather, it just means you have a higher risk of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But there could be an upside.

Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by successfully managing your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be controlled? There are several ways:

  • Come in and see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you may have.
  • You can take a few measures to safeguard your hearing from further harm if you detect your hearing loss early enough. For example, you could stay away from noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re around anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • The impact of hearing loss can be decreased by using hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids prevent dementia? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we recognize that brain function can be enhanced by wearing hearing aids. This is the reason why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have conversations. Your chance of developing dementia in the future is reduced by managing hearing loss, research suggests. That’s not the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.

Other ways to decrease your dementia risk

Naturally, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of dementia, too. Here are some examples:

  • Exercise is needed for good overall health including hearing health.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, including your risk of developing dementia (excessive alcohol use is also on this list).
  • Eating a healthy diet, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to take medication to bring it down.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep each night. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep each night to a higher risk of dementia.

The connection between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being studied by scientists. It’s a complicated disease with an array of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your general risk of cognitive decline. But it isn’t only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more confused conversations, no more misunderstandings.

It’s no fun losing out on life’s important moments. And taking steps to deal with your hearing loss, possibly by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us right away!



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.

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