Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was discovered that even minor neglected hearing impairment increases your risk of developing cognitive decline.

Researchers think that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So how can a hearing test help reduce 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 prevalent type of cognitive decline the majority of people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects about five million people in the U.S. Today, medical science has a complete understanding of how ear health increases the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear mechanisms are quite complex and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to waves of sound.

As time passes, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.

Research indicates that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t only an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher risk of developing dementia.

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

  • Irritability
  • Weak overall health
  • Depression
  • Memory impairment
  • Exhaustion
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Trouble learning new skills

The risk of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Even slight hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and somebody with extreme, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. 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 interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.

Why a hearing test matters

Not everyone understands how even minor hearing loss affects their general health. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it’s less noticeable.

We will be able to effectively assess your hearing health and track any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.

Minimizing the risk with hearing aids

Scientists currently think that the relationship between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you could conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and relieves the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.

There is no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t develop dementia. But scientists think hearing loss accelerates that decline. Having regular hearing tests to identify and treat hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.

If you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing examination.

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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.