What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. It was discovered that even mild untreated hearing loss increases your risk of developing cognitive decline.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions could have a pathological link. So how can a hearing exam help decrease the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, clear 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 prevalent form. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive form of dementia. Today, medical science has a complete understanding of how ear health alters the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear components are very intricate and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are boosted as they move toward the inner ear. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical impulses that the brain decodes.
Over the years these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. Comprehension of sound becomes much harder due to the reduction of electrical signals to the brain.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not the case. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Here are several disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Reduction in alertness
- Inability to master new tasks
- Impaired memory
- Weak overall health
The likelihood of developing dementia can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, also. Even minor hearing loss can double the danger of dementia. More advanced hearing loss means three times the danger and someone with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They found that hearing loss significant enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive problems.
Why a hearing test matters
Not everybody appreciates how even a little hearing loss affects their general health. Most individuals don’t even know they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
Scheduling regular thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly assess hearing health and track any decline as it occurs.
Using hearing aids to reduce the danger
The current theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big part in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. The stress on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
There’s no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive issues. The key to decreasing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
Contact us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you might be coping with hearing loss.