Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Link?

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

Want to take all the joy out of your next family gathering? Start to talk about dementia.

The topic of dementia can be very frightening and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to discuss it. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more terrifyingly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory problems. It’s not something anybody looks forward to.

So stopping or at least delaying dementia is important for many individuals. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have several fairly clear connections and correlations.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why does hearing loss increase chances of dementia?

What occurs when your hearing impairment goes untreated?

You recognize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it isn’t at the top of your list of concerns. You can just crank up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll simply put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

On the other hand, maybe you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still easy to dismiss. Either way, hearing loss and mental decline have a powerful connection. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. You could begin to keep yourself isolated from others because of this. You can draw away from family, friends, and loved ones. You’ll talk to others less. This sort of social separation 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 probably won’t attribute their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will start to work a lot harder. Your ears will collect less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This is unbelievably taxing. Your brain will then have to get extra energy from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the current theory). It’s thought that this may quicken the onset of dementia. Your brain working so hard can also result in all manner of other symptoms, like mental stress and exhaustion.

So your hearing loss isn’t quite as innocuous as you may have suspected.

One of the principal indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you have only slight hearing loss. 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 someone who doesn’t have hearing loss.

So one of the initial signs of dementia can be even minor hearing loss.

Now… What does that suggest?

Well, it’s essential not to forget that we’re dealing with risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. Instead, it just means you have a greater risk of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But that might actually be good news.

Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by successfully dealing with your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be addressed? Here are a few ways:

  • The affect of hearing loss can be reduced by wearing hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids prevent cognitive decline? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can improve brain function. Here’s why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have discussions. Your chance of developing dementia later in life is reduced by treating hearing loss, research suggests. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • You can take a few measures to protect your hearing from further damage if you detect your hearing loss early enough. You could, for instance, wear ear protection if you work in a noisy setting and avoid noisy events like concerts or sporting events.
  • Come see us so we can help you diagnose any hearing loss you may have.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other methods

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

  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. In some cases, medication can help here, some people just have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals could need medication sooner than later.
  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep each night. Some research links a higher chance of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep every night.
  • Exercise is needed for good overall health including hearing health.
  • Quit smoking. Seriously. Smoking will raise your chance of cognitive decline as well as impacting your overall health (excessive alcohol drinking is also on this list).

The connection between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being examined by scientists. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complicated. But the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, hearing better will help reduce your overall danger of developing cognitive decline down the line. But it’s not just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more confused conversations, no more misunderstandings.

It’s no fun losing out on life’s important moments. And a little bit of hearing loss management, maybe in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

So call us today for an appointment.



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.