Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to understand. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.

Scientists think that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So how can a hearing test help reduce the risk of hearing loss related dementia?

Dementia, what is it?

Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Individuals tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a common 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 ear health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

When it comes to good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Inside the maze of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain decodes.

Over the years these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. The result is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to comprehend sound.

Research reveals that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the extra effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher risk of developing dementia.

Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:

  • Reduction in alertness
  • Memory impairment
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Overall diminished health
  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Irritability

The risk of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, also. Even mild hearing loss can double the risk of cognitive decline. 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 cognitive decline. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were studied 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 assessment worthwhile?

Not everyone understands how even slight hearing loss affects their general health. For most people, the decline is gradual so they don’t always know there is an issue. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

Scheduling routine thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly evaluate hearing health and track any decline as it takes place.

Decreasing the danger with hearing aids

Scientists currently believe that the connection between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss produces. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The strain on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to comprehend the sounds it’s receiving.

There’s no rule that says people with normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss quickens that decline. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.

If you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing assessment.

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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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