What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to comprehend. It was discovered that even mild neglected hearing impairment raises your risk of developing dementia.
Researchers think that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does loss of hearing put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help fight it?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. People often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a complete understanding of how hearing health alters the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear components are very intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they move toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, little hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain decodes.
Over the years these tiny hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud sound. The result is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to understand sound.
Research reveals that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an irrelevant part of aging. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher risk of developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:
- Overall diminished health
- Memory impairment
- Reduction in alertness
- Trouble learning new skills
And the more significant your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. Even minor hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with severe, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing dementia. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They discovered that hearing loss significant enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing test matters
Hearing loss affects the overall health and that would probably surprise many individuals. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to properly evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they occur with routine hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
The current hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant part in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and alleviates the strain on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.
There’s no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss accelerates that decline. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss.