Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was found that even minor untreated hearing impairment raises your risk of developing dementia.
These two seemingly unconnected health conditions may have a pathological link. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help fight it?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. People tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a prevalent form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are quite intricate and each one matters in relation to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. 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.
Over time these tiny hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. The outcome is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to understand sound.
Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher risk of developing dementia.
Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Overall diminished health
- Memory impairment
- Trouble learning new skills
- Reduction in alertness
The likelihood of developing dementia can increase based on the extent of your hearing loss, too. Even minor hearing loss can double the danger of dementia. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater risk. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They found that hearing loss significant enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing exam matters
Hearing loss impacts the general health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. Most people don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
We will be able to properly evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they happen with regular hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to decrease the risk
The present theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant role in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and alleviates the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss accelerates that decline. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss.