Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to comprehend. It was found that even minor untreated hearing impairment raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
Experts think that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing test help minimize the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
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. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects around five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear components are quite intricate and each one is important in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go into 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 time, many people develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear due to years of damage to these delicate hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much harder due to the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not accurate. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:
- Overall diminished health
- Trouble learning new skills
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
And the more significant your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. Someone with only mild impairment has twice the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and somebody with severe, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They found that hearing loss advanced enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to cause memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing test matters
Not everyone realizes how even slight hearing loss affects their general health. For most people, the decline is gradual so they don’t always recognize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
Scheduling routine comprehensive assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly evaluate hearing health and observe any decline as it happens.
Using hearing aids to decrease the danger
The present hypothesis is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant part in cognitive decline and different forms 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 relieves the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s getting.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive issues. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
If you’re concerned that you may be suffering from hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing examination.