Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to comprehend. It was found that even mild untreated hearing loss increases your risk of developing dementia.

These two seemingly unconnected health disorders might have a pathological connection. So how can a hearing exam help decrease the risk of hearing loss related dementia?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition that decreases 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 common form. About five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive kind of dementia. Precisely how hearing health impacts the risk 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. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they move toward the inner ear. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain decodes.

Over time, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these delicate hair cells. The result is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.

This gradual hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not accurate. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing dementia.

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

  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Weak overall health
  • Exhaustion
  • Impaired memory
  • Depression
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Irritability

The likelihood of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the extent of your hearing loss, too. Even mild hearing loss can double the odds of dementia. More advanced hearing loss means three times the danger and a person with extreme, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They revealed that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.

Why is a hearing test worthwhile?

Not everybody appreciates how even minor hearing loss affects their overall health. Most people don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s less obvious.

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

Minimizing the danger with hearing aids

Scientists presently think that the connection between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.

Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive issues. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.

If you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing examination.

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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.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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