What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of developing dementia is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders may have a pathological link. So how can a hearing exam help minimize the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline the majority of 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 impacts the danger of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are extremely intricate and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are amplified as they travel toward the inner ear. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to sound waves.
Over the years these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud sound. The result is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to understand sound.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not the case. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will try to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that lead to:
- Trouble learning new skills
- Weak overall health
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
The odds of developing dementia can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, also. An individual with only mild hearing loss has twice the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and someone with extreme, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They revealed that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.
Why is a hearing test worthwhile?
Not everyone understands how even slight hearing loss affects their general health. For most, the decline is slow so they don’t always know there is an issue. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is not so obvious.
We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.
Minimizing the danger with hearing aids
Scientists presently think that the link between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss produces. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing 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. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
There is no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive issues. The key to reducing that risk is routine 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, call us today to schedule your hearing evaluation.