What’s the Connection Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will probably put a dark cloud above the entire event.

Dementia isn’t a topic most people are actively looking to discuss, mostly because it’s pretty scary. A degenerative cognitive disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory issues. Nobody wants to experience that.

This is why many individuals are seeking a way to counter, or at least delay, the development of dementia. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and neglected hearing loss.

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why does hearing loss raise the risk of dementia?

When you ignore hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

Maybe you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you aren’t that concerned about it. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your tv won’t fix, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just put on the captions.

But then again, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Perhaps the signs are still hard to detect. In either case, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a solid connection. That might have something to do with what occurs when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. You could begin to keep yourself secluded from others because of this. You can withdraw from friends, family, and loved ones. You won’t talk with people as often. It’s bad for your brain to separate yourself like this. It’s not good for your social life either. Additionally, many people who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they most likely won’t connect their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. Your ears will collect less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. As a result, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. The present theory is, when this takes place, your brain draws power from your thought and memory centers. The thinking is that over time this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also cause all kinds of other symptoms, like mental stress and exhaustion.

So your hearing impairment is not quite as harmless as you might have thought.

One of the major signs of dementia is hearing loss

Maybe your hearing loss is slight. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else is just fine. Well, even with that, your chance of getting dementia is doubled.

So one of the preliminary signs of dementia can be even mild hearing loss.

Now… What does that suggest?

We’re looking at risk in this circumstance which is important to note. Hearing loss isn’t a guarantee of cognitive decline or even an early symptom of dementia. Rather, it simply means you have a greater risk of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But there could be an upside.

Your risk of dementia is lowered by successfully managing your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be controlled? There are numerous ways:

  • Wearing a hearing aid can help minimize the impact of hearing loss. So, can dementia be avoided by wearing hearing aids? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can improve brain function. This is why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to carry on conversations. Your risk of developing dementia later in life is minimized by treating hearing loss, research indicates. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • Make an appointment with us to diagnose your current hearing loss.
  • You can take some steps to safeguard your hearing from further harm if you catch your hearing loss soon enough. For example, you could avoid noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).

Other ways to decrease your dementia risk

Naturally, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of cognitive decline, too. This could include:

  • Exercise is needed for good general health including hearing health.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will raise your chance of cognitive decline and will impact your general health (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).
  • Getting adequate sleep at night is imperative. There are studies that link fewer than four hours of sleep every night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • Eating a healthy diet, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to take medication to lower it.

The connection between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being researched by scientists. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complicated. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your overall risk of dementia. You’ll be improving your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

It’s no fun missing out on life’s important moments. And taking steps to manage your hearing loss, possibly by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us today!



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.