Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to understand. It was found that even minor neglected hearing loss increases your risk of developing dementia.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions may have a pathological link. So how can a hearing exam help minimize the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Around five million people in the US are affected by this progressive form of dementia. Precisely how hearing health impacts the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the complex ear mechanism matters. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain decodes.
As time passes, many individuals develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these fragile hair cells. The result is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not the case. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the additional effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher risk of developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that result in:
- Impaired memory
- Trouble learning new skills
- Reduction in alertness
- Overall diminished health
The risk of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the degree of your hearing loss, too. Someone with just minor impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater danger. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They found that hearing loss significant enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive problems.
Why is a hearing exam important?
Hearing loss affects the overall health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. Most people don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s less noticeable.
Scheduling routine thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly evaluate hearing health and track any decline as it occurs.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
The current theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big part in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. The stress on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
There is no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive issues. Having routine hearing tests to diagnose and deal with hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
If you’re concerned that you may be suffering from hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing evaluation.