What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting dementia is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
Researchers believe that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing test help reduce the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline most individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects 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
The ear components are very complex and each one is important in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are amplified as they move toward the inner ear. Electrical signals are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to waves of sound.
Over time these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. The result is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not the case. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decode them anyway. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more susceptible to developing cognitive decline.
Here are a few disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Impaired memory
- Trouble learning new skills
- Overall diminished health
- Reduction in alertness
The odds of developing dementia can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, also. Somebody with only mild impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will bring the risk up by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater danger. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. 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 worthwhile?
Hearing loss affects the general health and that would most likely surprise many people. For most people, the decline is gradual so they don’t always recognize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to effectively assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
The present hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a big role in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. The stress on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s receiving.
There is no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive problems. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing exams to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you may be coping with hearing loss.