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 increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions might have a pathological connection. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and reduce socialization skills. Individuals tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. About five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive form of dementia. Precisely how hearing health impacts the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear components 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 sound waves.
Over time, many individuals develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much harder because of the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not accurate. The brain tries to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
- Inability to master new tasks
- Overall diminished health
And the more severe your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. A person with only mild hearing loss has double the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and someone 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 studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Cognitive and memory problems are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing exam matters
Hearing loss affects the general health and that would probably surprise many individuals. For most, the decline is progressive so they don’t always know there is a problem. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s less obvious.
We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with regular hearing exams.
Minimizing the risk with hearing aids
The present hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a big part in cognitive decline and different types 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 interferes with your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work as hard to understand the sounds it’s receiving.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss quickens that decline. Getting routine hearing tests to diagnose and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.
Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss.