Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to understand. Your risk of developing dementia is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
Experts think that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline most individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts around five million people in the U.S. Exactly how hearing health effects the risk of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain translates.
As time passes, many individuals develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult due to the reduction 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. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the added effort to hear and this can eventually result in a higher risk of developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that lead to:
- Inability to master new tasks
- Memory impairment
- Overall diminished health
- Reduction in alertness
The likelihood of developing dementia can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Even slight hearing loss can double the risk of cognitive decline. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and someone with severe, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive issues are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why is a hearing test important?
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would probably surprise many individuals. Most individuals don’t even know they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it’s not so obvious.
We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
Scientists presently believe that the connection between dementia and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain strain that hearing loss produces. Based on that one fact, you could conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The stress on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive problems. 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.
Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss.