Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions may have a pathological link. So, how does loss of hearing put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing exam help fight it?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. 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 alters the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear mechanism matters. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain translates.
Over time, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot more difficult because of the reduction of electrical signals to the brain.
Research reveals that this slow loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher risk of developing cognitive decline.
Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Inability to master new tasks
- Impaired memory
- Weak overall health
- Reduction in alertness
The odds of developing dementia can increase based on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Even slight hearing loss can double the danger of dementia. Hearing loss that is more significant 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. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing exam matters
Not everybody appreciates how even a little hearing loss impacts their overall health. For most people, the decline is slow so they don’t always know there is an issue. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to effectively assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with routine hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
Scientists currently believe that the connection between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. The stress on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work as hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s receiving.
There is no rule that says people who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive issues. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
If you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing examination.