What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was discovered that even mild neglected hearing impairment increases your risk of developing cognitive decline.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions might have a pathological link. So how can a hearing exam help minimize the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type of cognitive decline most individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. About five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive kind of dementia. Precisely how hearing health impacts the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are extremely complex and each one matters in relation to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Electrical signals are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to waves of sound.
Over time these little hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. The result is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to understand sound.
Research reveals that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decode them anyway. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing dementia.
Here are several disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Impaired memory
- Weak overall health
- Inability to master new tasks
- Reduction in alertness
The risk of developing dementia can increase based on the extent of your hearing loss, too. Even minor hearing loss can double the danger of cognitive decline. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and someone with extreme, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing dementia. 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 a hearing exam matters
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. For most, the decline is slow so they don’t always know there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
Scheduling regular comprehensive exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly assess hearing health and monitor any decline as it happens.
Reducing the risk with hearing aids
Scientists presently think that the connection between dementia and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain stress 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 unwanted background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. But scientists think hearing loss quickens that decline. Having routine hearing exams to identify and treat hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to reducing that risk.
If you’re concerned that you may be suffering from hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing assessment.