What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to understand. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders might have a pathological connection. So, how does loss of hearing put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing exam help fight it?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a prevalent form. About five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive form of dementia. These days, medical science has a complete understanding of how ear health increases the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain translates.
Over time, 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 a lot more difficult due to the reduction of electrical impulses 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 try 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 chance of developing dementia.
Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Trouble learning new skills
- Memory impairment
- Weak overall health
- Reduction in alertness
The risk of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the degree of your hearing loss, too. Somebody with just minor impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater danger. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Cognitive and memory problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing test matters
Not everybody appreciates how even a little hearing loss impacts their general health. Most people don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.
Scheduling regular thorough assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly assess hearing health and monitor any decline as it happens.
Using hearing aids to decrease the risk
Scientists currently believe that the connection between dementia and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain strain that hearing loss produces. Based on that one fact, you might 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. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to understand the sounds it’s receiving.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive issues. The key to decreasing that risk is routine hearing exams to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
If you’re concerned that you might be suffering from hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing examination.