What’s the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was found that even minor untreated hearing impairment increases your risk of developing dementia.
Researchers think that there may be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does loss of hearing put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing test help fight it?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type of cognitive decline most individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. 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 hearing health alters the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear components are quite complex and each one is important when it comes 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 send electrical signals that the brain translates.
As time passes, many people develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these fragile hair cells. The result is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.
Research indicates that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t only an inconsequential part of aging. The brain tries to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for lots of diseases that lead to:
- Weak overall health
- Impaired memory
- Reduction in alertness
- Inability to master new tasks
And the more severe your hearing loss the higher your risk of dementia. Even minor hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and very severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why is a hearing assessment worthwhile?
Not everyone understands how even slight hearing loss affects their overall health. For most, the decline is progressive so they don’t always realize there is an issue. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and track any changes as they happen with regular hearing exams.
Decreasing the danger with hearing aids
The current hypothesis is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant part in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and alleviates the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to understand the audio messages it’s getting.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss quickens that decline. Getting routine hearing tests to detect and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
If you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing evaluation.