What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to understand. It was found that even minor untreated hearing loss raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders might have a pathological connection. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. People often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive type of dementia. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Electrical signals are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to waves of sound.
As time passes, many people develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much harder due to the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.
Research reveals that this slow loss of hearing isn’t only an inconsequential part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher chance of developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that result in:
- Trouble learning new skills
- Reduction in alertness
- Memory impairment
- Overall diminished health
The odds of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, too. Even mild hearing loss can double the odds of dementia. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater risk. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive issues are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing assessment matters
Not everybody understands how even a little hearing loss impacts their general health. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.
Minimizing the risk with hearing aids
The present theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant part in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and eases the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work as hard to comprehend the sounds it’s getting.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive issues. Having regular hearing tests to detect and treat hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.
If you’re concerned that you might be suffering from hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing assessment.