What’s the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting dementia is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
Researchers believe that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So, how does hearing loss put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. People often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a common form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects around five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health increases the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are quite complex and each one matters in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to sound waves.
As time passes, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the reduction of electrical signals to the brain.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not the case. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. That effort puts strain on the ear, making the individual struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Reduction in alertness
- Overall diminished health
- Memory impairment
- Trouble learning new skills
The risk of developing dementia can increase based on the extent of your hearing loss, also. A person with only mild hearing loss has twice the risk. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and very severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They found that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing test matters
Hearing loss impacts the general health and that would probably surprise many individuals. Most individuals don’t even know they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to properly evaluate your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to decrease the risk
The present theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a big role in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and eases the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work as hard to understand the audio messages it’s receiving.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss speeds up that decline. Having regular hearing exams to detect and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
If you’re worried that you might be suffering from hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing examination.