What’s the Link Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

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

Want to suck all the fun out of your next family get-together? Start to talk about dementia.

Dementia isn’t a subject most individuals are actively looking to talk about, mostly because it’s rather frightening. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, causes you to lose touch with reality, experience memory loss, and causes a general loss of mental faculties. No one wants to go through that.

This is why many individuals are seeking a way to counter, or at least delay, the advancement of dementia. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and neglected hearing loss.

You might be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, actually)? Why does hearing loss increase the risk of dementia?

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 concerns. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your tv won’t solve, right? Maybe you’ll just put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

But then again, maybe you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still easy to ignore. In either case, hearing loss and mental decline have a powerful connection. That might have something to do with what occurs when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. As a result, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You might become removed from loved ones and friends. You’ll talk to others less. This type of social separation is, well, not good for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most individuals who have this type of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will begin to work much harder. Your ears will collect less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. As a result, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This will really tire your brain out. Your brain will then need to get extra energy from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the present concept). The thinking is that after a while this contributes to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also cause all kinds of other symptoms, like mental fatigue and exhaustion.

You may have thought that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it really is.

Hearing loss is one of the primary indicators of dementia

Maybe your hearing loss is slight. Whispers may get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, even with that, your chance of getting dementia is doubled.

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

Now… What does that mean?

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

Because it means that successfully dealing with your hearing loss can help you reduce your risk of cognitive decline. So how can you deal with your hearing loss? There are several ways:

  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain measures you can take to safeguard your hearing. As an example, you could stay away from noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help minimize the affect of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids stop cognitive decline? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can enhance brain function. This is why: You’ll be able to participate in more discussions, your brain won’t need to work so hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially connected. Your chance of developing dementia later in life is reduced by managing hearing loss, research implies. That isn’t the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.
  • Set up an appointment with us to diagnose your existing hearing loss.

Other ways to lower your dementia risk

Naturally, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of cognitive decline, too. Here are some examples:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep each night. Some studies link fewer than four hours of sleep each night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Quit smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, and that includes your chance of experiencing cognitive decline (excess alcohol drinking is also on this list).
  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. Sometimes, medication can help here, some people just have naturally higher blood pressure; those people may need medication sooner rather than later.

The connection between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being studied by scientists. It’s a complex disease with an array of causes. But any way you can lower your risk is good.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your overall risk of dementia. But it’s not only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s now. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely trips to the grocery store.

Losing out on the important things in life is no fun. And a small amount of hearing loss management, perhaps in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

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.

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