What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of developing dementia is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
Researchers think that there may be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So how can a hearing exam help minimize the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and reduce socialization skills. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a prevalent form. Around 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
In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are amplified as they move toward the inner ear. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain decodes.
As time passes, many individuals develop a slow decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the decrease of electrical signals to the brain.
Research indicates that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:
- Overall diminished health
- Inability to master new tasks
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
And the more extreme your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. A person with only mild impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and extremely severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater danger. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They discovered that hearing loss advanced enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing assessment matters
Not everybody appreciates how even a little hearing loss impacts their overall health. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with routine hearing exams.
Minimizing the risk with hearing aids
The current theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant role in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to comprehend the sounds it’s receiving.
There is no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive issues. Having routine hearing exams to detect and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.
Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you might be coping with hearing loss.