Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to understand. Your risk of getting dementia is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unconnected health disorders could have a pathological connection. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help fight it?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline most people 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 danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. 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 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 considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher risk of developing dementia.
Here are several disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Memory impairment
- Inability to master new tasks
- Reduction in alertness
- Weak overall health
The likelihood of developing dementia can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, also. An individual with only mild impairment has twice the risk. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and extremely severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They discovered that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing assessment matters
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 realize there is a problem. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is less obvious.
Scheduling routine thorough assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly assess hearing health and track any decline as it takes place.
Minimizing the danger with hearing aids
Scientists presently think that the relationship between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss produces. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The stress on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive problems. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you may be coping with hearing loss.