What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was discovered that even minor neglected hearing loss increases your risk of developing dementia.
These two seemingly unconnected health disorders might have a pathological link. So how can a hearing test help reduce the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects around five million people in the U.S. Today, 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 complex and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain decodes.
Over time these tiny hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot more difficult due to the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.
Research reveals that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the ear, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Here are a few disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Weak overall health
- Inability to master new tasks
- Impaired memory
- Reduction in alertness
And the more extreme your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. A person with just minor impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher risk. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They revealed that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing assessment matters
Hearing loss affects the overall health and that would most likely surprise many people. For most people, the decline is progressive so they don’t always know there is an issue. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it’s less obvious.
We will be able to effectively assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with regular hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to reduce the danger
Scientists currently think that the relationship between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss produces. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The stress on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.
There is no rule that says people who have normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive issues. Having routine hearing tests to identify and manage hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to reducing that risk.
Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss.