What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of developing dementia is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders may have a pathological link. So how can a hearing test help reduce the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Individuals tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a prevalent form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. Precisely how hearing health effects the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are extremely intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they travel toward the inner ear. Electrical impulses are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to sound waves.
Over time, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot more difficult due to the decrease of electrical signals to the brain.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the additional effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that lead to:
- Overall diminished health
- Memory impairment
- Reduction in alertness
- Inability to master new tasks
The likelihood of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, also. Even slight hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They discovered that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to cause memory and cognitive issues.
Why is a hearing test important?
Not everybody realizes how even a little hearing loss impacts their general health. Most people don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to properly evaluate your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to decrease the risk
The current theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a major role in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and relieves the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work as hard to understand the sounds it’s getting.
There is no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. But scientists think hearing loss quickens that decline. Getting routine hearing exams to detect and manage hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.
If you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing assessment.