Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Link?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

If you start talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will probably put a dark cloud over the entire event.

Dementia isn’t a subject most people are actively looking to discuss, mostly because it’s rather scary. A degenerative cognitive disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory issues. No one wants to go through that.

So preventing or at least delaying dementia is a priority for many individuals. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have several pretty clear connections and correlations.

You might be surprised by that. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the dangers of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

What happens when your hearing loss goes untreated?

You realize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of worries. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your television won’t fix, right? Maybe you’ll simply turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

On the other hand, maybe you haven’t noticed your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still easy to ignore. In either case, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a strong correlation. That might have something to do with what happens when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. You could begin to keep yourself isolated from others because of this. You may become removed from loved ones and friends. You speak to others less. It’s bad for your brain to separate yourself this way. And naturally your social life. Additionally, many individuals who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they probably won’t attribute their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will begin to work a lot harder. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t get nearly as much audio information (this is sort of obvious, yes, but stick with us). As a result, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. The current concept is, when this occurs, your brain pulls power from your thinking and memory centers. It’s believed that this might quicken the development of dementia. Mental fatigue and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the outcome of your brain needing to work so hard.

So your hearing impairment is not quite as harmless as you may have believed.

One of the leading signs of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you just have mild hearing loss. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else sounds normal. Well, turns out you’re still two times as likely to develop dementia as someone who does not have hearing loss.

Which means that even minor hearing loss is a pretty strong preliminary sign of a dementia risk.

Now… What does that mean?

Well, it’s important to remember that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will lead to dementia. Rather, it just means you have a higher chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But that might actually be good news.

Your risk of dementia is reduced by effectively dealing with your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be addressed? Here are several ways:

  • Set up an appointment with us to identify your current hearing loss.
  • Using a hearing aid can help minimize the affect of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be stopped by using hearing aids? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be improved by wearing hearing aids. Here’s why: You’ll be capable of participating in more discussions, your brain won’t have to work as hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially involved. Research indicates that managing hearing loss can help minimize your danger of developing dementia when you get older. That’s not the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.
  • You can take some measures to protect your hearing from further harm if you catch your hearing loss soon enough. You could, for instance, use hearing protection if you work in a noisy setting and avoid noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.

Other ways to lower your dementia risk

Of course, there are other things you can do to reduce your chance of dementia, too. This could include:

  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, and that includes your chance of experiencing cognitive decline (excessive alcohol drinking can also go on this list).
  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall can go a long way. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to take medication to bring it down.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Getting adequate sleep at night is imperative. Some studies link fewer than four hours of sleep per night to an increase in the risk of dementia.

Of course, scientists are still researching the link between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complex. But any way you can lower your risk is good.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of dementia. You’ll be bettering your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And a little bit of hearing loss management, maybe in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

So call us today for an appointment.



The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.