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Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

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

These two seemingly unrelated health disorders might have a pathological link. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help fight it?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. People often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. Around five million people in the US are affected by this progressive form of dementia. Precisely how hearing health effects the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.

How hearing works

The ear components are quite complex and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are boosted as they move toward the inner ear. 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 these tiny hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder to comprehend sound.

Research reveals that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t only an irrelevant part of aging. The brain tries to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts strain on the ear, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that result in:

  • Depression
  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Exhaustion
  • Impaired memory
  • Irritability
  • Weak overall health

The odds of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, also. Even minor hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher risk. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory issues are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why a hearing assessment matters

Not everyone understands how even minor hearing loss affects their overall health. Most people don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with routine hearing exams.

Using hearing aids to decrease the risk

Scientists currently believe that the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss produces. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. The strain on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s getting.

There’s no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. But scientists think hearing loss accelerates that decline. Having routine hearing tests to identify and manage hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.

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

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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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