Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Connection?

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

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will probably put a dark cloud over the entire event.

The subject of dementia can be really scary and most people aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. A degenerative mental disease in which you slowly (or, more terrifyingly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory loss. It isn’t something anyone looks forward to.

For this reason, many people are looking for a way to prevent, or at least delay, the development of dementia. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have several fairly clear connections and correlations.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, it turns out)? Why does hearing loss raise the risk of dementia?

What occurs when your hearing impairment goes untreated?

Perhaps you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you aren’t too concerned about it. You can just turn up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite show, you’ll just turn on the captions.

Or maybe your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Perhaps the signs are still subtle. Mental decline and hearing impairment are strongly linked either way. That may have something to do with what happens when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. As a result, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You may become removed from loved ones and friends. You’ll talk to others less. This kind of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Additionally, many individuals who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they likely won’t connect their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will begin to work a lot harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. Your brain will then have to get additional energy from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the current concept). The thinking is that over time this contributes to dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental fatigue and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the result of your brain needing to work so hard.

You may have suspected that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it actually is.

Hearing loss is one of the primary indicators of dementia

Maybe your hearing loss is slight. Whispers may get lost, but you can hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, turns out you’re still two times as likely to develop dementia as somebody who does not have hearing loss.

Meaning that even mild hearing loss is a fairly strong preliminary indication of a dementia risk.

Now… What does that mean?

We’re looking at risk in this circumstance which is important to note. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of dementia or even an early symptom of dementia. Rather, it just means you have a higher chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But there might be an upside.

Because it means that effectively managing your hearing loss can help you lower your chance of cognitive decline. So how can you deal with your hearing loss? Here are a few ways:

  • Come in and see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you may have.
  • You can take a few measures to protect your hearing from further harm if you catch your hearing loss early enough. You could, for instance, wear hearing protection if you work in a loud environment and steer clear of noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids prevent cognitive decline? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can improve brain function. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t need to work so hard to have discussions. Your risk of developing dementia later in life is minimized by managing hearing loss, research implies. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other strategies

Of course, there are other things you can do to lower your risk of dementia, too. Here are some examples:

  • Get some exercise.
  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep each night. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep every night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • Quit smoking. Seriously. Smoking will increase your risk of cognitive decline and will impact your general health (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).
  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is generally healthy can go a long way. In some cases, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those people could need medication sooner than later.

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being examined by scientists. It’s a complex disease with a matrix of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help reduce your general risk of developing dementia in the future. You’ll be improving your life now, not only in the future. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely visits to the grocery store.

It’s no fun losing out on life’s important moments. And taking steps to manage your hearing loss, perhaps by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us right away!



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.


    Find out how we can help!

    Call or Text Us