Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting dementia is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.

Experts think that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does hearing loss put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?

Dementia, what is it?

The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline most 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 comprehensive 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 complex ear mechanism matters. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. Electrical impulses are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to waves of sound.

As time passes, many individuals develop a slow decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these delicate hair cells. The outcome is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.

Research reveals that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t only an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.

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

  • Exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Weak overall health
  • Irritability

The likelihood of developing dementia can increase based on the extent of your hearing loss, also. Even mild hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and somebody with severe, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive issues are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.

Why is a hearing exam worthwhile?

Not everybody understands how even slight hearing loss affects their general health. For most people, the decline is progressive so they don’t always realize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less obvious.

Scheduling regular thorough assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly assess hearing health and track any decline as it takes place.

Minimizing the danger with hearing aids

The present hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a big role in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. The strain on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to understand the audio messages it’s getting.

There’s no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive problems. Getting routine hearing exams to detect and deal with hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.

Contact us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you might be coping 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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