Your Risk of Getting Dementia Could be Decreased by Having Regular Hearing Exams

Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to comprehend. Your risk of developing cognitive decline is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.

Scientists think that there might be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing exam help decrease the risk of hearing loss related dementia?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline the majority of individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. About five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive type of dementia. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health alters the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear components are very intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Electrical signals are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to waves of sound.

Over the years these little hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud noise. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot harder due to the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.

Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an irrelevant part of aging. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the added effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher chance of developing dementia.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:

  • Memory impairment
  • Irritability
  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Overall diminished health

And the more significant your hearing loss the greater your risk of dementia. A person with just minor hearing loss has twice the risk. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with extreme, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They discovered that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to cause memory and cognitive issues.

Why is a hearing test important?

Not everyone appreciates how even a little hearing loss affects their general health. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.

Scheduling routine comprehensive assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to effectively evaluate hearing health and observe any decline as it takes place.

Decreasing the risk with hearing aids

The current hypothesis is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big part in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and relieves the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to understand the sounds it’s getting.

People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss speeds up that decline. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.

If you’re concerned that you might be suffering from hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing evaluation.

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.