Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Connection?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

If you start talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will probably put a dark cloud over the entire event.

The subject of dementia can be very frightening and most individuals aren’t going to purposely discuss it. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more terrifyingly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory issues. Nobody wants to experience that.

For this reason, many individuals are seeking a way to counter, or at least delay, the advancement of dementia. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (a lot, it turns out)? Why are the dangers of dementia increased with hearing loss?

When you disregard hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

Perhaps you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you aren’t that concerned about it. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your television won’t solve, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unobserved so far. Maybe the signs are still easy to ignore. Mental decline and hearing impairment are firmly connected either way. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. You could begin to keep yourself secluded from others because of this. You can withdraw from friends, family, and loved ones. You won’t talk with others as often. This kind of social isolation is, well, not good for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most people who have this type of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will start to work a lot harder. Your ears will collect less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. As a result, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This is extremely taxing. The present theory is, when this takes place, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. It’s thought that this could hasten the development of cognitive decline. Your brain working so hard can also cause all manner of other symptoms, like mental fatigue and tiredness.

You might have suspected that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.

One of the major signs of dementia is hearing loss

Maybe your hearing loss is slight. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else sounds just fine. Well, even with that, your risk of getting dementia is doubled.

So one of the initial indications of dementia can be even minor hearing loss.

So… How should we understand this?

Well, it’s important to remember that we’re dealing with risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. Instead, it simply means you have a greater risk of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But there might be an upside.

Because it means that effectively dealing with your hearing loss can help you decrease your chance of dementia. So how can hearing loss be addressed? Here are a few ways:

  • Come in and see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you may have.
  • Using a hearing aid can help minimize the affect of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be prevented by using hearing aids? That’s tough to say, but hearing aids can boost brain function. This is why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to carry on discussions. Research implies that treating hearing loss can help minimize your risk of developing dementia in the future. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are some steps you can take to safeguard your hearing. As an example, you could stay away from noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re around anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).

Lowering your risk of dementia – other strategies

Of course, there are other things you can do to decrease your risk of cognitive decline, too. This might include:

  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is generally healthy can go a long way. Sometimes, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals could need medication sooner rather than later.
  • Quit smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, including your risk of developing cognitive decline (excess alcohol drinking can also go on this list).
  • Make sure you get enough sleep every night. There are studies that link less than four hours of sleep every night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • Get some exercise.

Of course, scientists are still studying the link between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complicated disease with a matrix of causes. But any way you can decrease your risk is good.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your general risk of cognitive decline. But it isn’t only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

It’s no fun missing out on life’s important moments. And taking steps to control your hearing loss, maybe by using hearing aids, can be a big help.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us right away!



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.