What’s the Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

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

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will probably put a dark cloud above the whole event.

The subject of dementia can be really scary and most people aren’t going to go out of their way to discuss it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, makes you lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory, and causes an over-all loss of mental function. It isn’t something anyone looks forward to.

This is why many people are seeking a way to counter, or at least delay, the development of dementia. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have some pretty clear connections and correlations.

You may be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, it turns out)? Why are the dangers of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What occurs when your hearing loss goes untreated?

You recognize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of concerns. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your tv won’t fix, right? Maybe you’ll simply put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

Or maybe your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Maybe the signs are still subtle. In either case, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a solid correlation. That might have something to do with what occurs when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. You could start to keep yourself secluded from others as a result of this. You might become removed from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with people as often. It’s not good for your brain to separate yourself this way. Not to mention your social life. Further, most individuals who have this kind of isolation won’t even recognize that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will start to work a lot harder. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stay with us). This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This is extremely taxing. The present concept is, when this happens, your brain draws power from your thought and memory centers. It’s thought that this may speed up the development of cognitive decline. Your brain working so hard can also result in all kinds of other symptoms, such as mental fatigue and exhaustion.

You might have suspected that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.

Hearing loss is one of the leading signs of dementia

Let’s say you just have slight hearing loss. Whispers may get lost, but you can hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, even with that, your risk of getting dementia is doubled.

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

So… How should we interpret this?

We’re looking at risk in this situation which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will lead to dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a higher risk of developing cognitive decline. But there may be an upside.

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

  • You can take a few measures to protect your hearing from further harm if you detect your hearing loss early enough. For example, you could steer clear of noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Schedule an appointment with us to diagnose your current hearing loss.
  • The impact of hearing loss can be minimized by wearing hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids prevent dementia? That’s tough to say, but hearing aids can boost brain function. This is the reason why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t need to work so hard to carry on conversations. Your chance of developing dementia later in life is reduced by treating hearing loss, research implies. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.

Other ways to reduce your dementia risk

You can reduce your risk of cognitive decline by doing some other things as well, of course. This might include:

  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is generally healthy can go a long way. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to bring it down.
  • Make sure you get plenty of sleep each night. There are studies that link fewer than four hours of sleep each night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • Stop smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, including your chance of experiencing cognitive decline (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).
  • Exercise is necessary for good general health including hearing health.

Of course, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complex disease with a matrix of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

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

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And taking steps to deal with your hearing loss, maybe by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.

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.