Hearing Health Blog

Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to understand. It was found that even minor neglected hearing loss raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.

These two seemingly unrelated health disorders may have a pathological link. So how can a hearing test help decrease the danger of hearing loss related dementia?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive form of dementia. These days, medical science has a complete understanding of how ear health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear mechanisms are extremely intricate and each one matters in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. Electrical impulses 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 because of years of damage to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot harder due to the reduction of electrical signals to the brain.

Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t only an inconsequential part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher risk of developing cognitive decline.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:

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

And the more severe your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. An individual with just minor impairment has twice the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and somebody with severe, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing cognitive decline. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.

Why a hearing exam matters

Hearing loss affects the general health and that would most likely surprise many people. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. 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 track any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.

Using hearing aids to reduce the risk

The current theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a major part in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and alleviates the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.

Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive issues. Having regular hearing exams to identify and manage hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.

If you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss, give us a call 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.
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