Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.

Researchers believe that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the danger of hearing loss related dementia?

Dementia, what is it?

Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. About five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive kind of dementia. Exactly how hearing health impacts the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.

How hearing works

In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear mechanism matters. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to send electrical impulses that the brain translates.

As time passes, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much harder because of the reduction of electrical signals to the brain.

Research suggests that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t only an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the impulses are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.

Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:

  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Impaired memory
  • Overall diminished health

The risk of developing dementia can increase based on the extent of your hearing loss, also. Someone with just mild hearing loss has twice the risk. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They revealed that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive issues.

Why a hearing exam matters

Not everybody realizes how even minor hearing loss affects their overall health. For most, the decline is progressive so they don’t always recognize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

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

Using hearing aids to decrease the risk

Scientists currently believe that the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss causes. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and relieves the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s receiving.

Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. But scientists think hearing loss speeds up that decline. Getting routine hearing exams to diagnose and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you may be coping with hearing loss.

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