What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to understand. Your risk of getting dementia is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unconnected health conditions may have a pathological connection. So, how does loss of hearing put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent form 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 type of dementia. Exactly how hearing health effects the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are extremely intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical impulses that the brain translates.
Over time, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much harder because of the decrease of electrical signals to the brain.
Research suggests that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Here are several disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Overall diminished health
- Impaired memory
- Reduction in alertness
- Trouble learning new skills
The odds of developing dementia can increase based on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Even slight hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with severe, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing cognitive decline. Research by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why is a hearing test important?
Not everyone appreciates how even minor hearing loss impacts their overall health. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with regular hearing exams.
Decreasing the risk with hearing aids
The current theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a big role in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and eases the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists think hearing loss quickens that decline. Having routine hearing tests to detect and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss.