Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to comprehend. It was found that even mild neglected hearing impairment raises your risk of developing dementia.

These two seemingly unrelated health disorders could have a pathological link. So, how does hearing loss put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?

Dementia, what is it?

Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type of cognitive decline most individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a complete understanding of how hearing health alters the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear mechanisms are extremely intricate and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain decodes.

As time passes, many people develop a progressive 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 decrease of electrical signals to the brain.

Research reveals that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher risk of developing dementia.

Here are a few disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:

  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Impaired memory
  • Depression
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Weak overall health

And the more extreme your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. Somebody with just mild hearing loss 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 higher risk. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive issues are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.

Why is a hearing assessment worthwhile?

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 slowly. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is less obvious.

Scheduling regular thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to effectively evaluate hearing health and observe any decline as it occurs.

Reducing the danger with hearing aids

Scientists currently believe that the link between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s getting.

Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive problems. Having routine hearing exams to diagnose and manage hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to reducing that risk.

Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss.

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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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