What’s the Connection Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

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

Want to take all the fun out of your next family gathering? Start talking about dementia.

Dementia isn’t a subject most individuals are actively looking to talk about, mostly because it’s rather scary. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory issues. It’s not something anybody looks forward to.

So preventing or at least delaying dementia is a priority for many individuals. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

You may be surprised by that. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the risks of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

What occurs when your hearing loss goes untreated?

You recognize that you’re starting 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 turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

But then again, maybe you haven’t noticed your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still subtle. Cognitive decline and hearing impairment are firmly linked either way. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. You could begin to keep yourself isolated from others as a result of this. You might become removed from loved ones and friends. You’ll talk to others less. This kind of social separation is, well, not good for your brain. Not to mention your social life. Additionally, many people who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they probably won’t connect their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This will really exhaust your brain. Your brain will then have to get additional energy from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the current concept). The idea is that over time this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Mental fatigue and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the outcome of your brain having to work so hard.

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

Hearing loss is one of the primary signs of dementia

Maybe your hearing loss is mild. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else is normal. Well, turns out you’re still two times as likely to get dementia as somebody who doesn’t have hearing loss.

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

Now… What does that mean?

We’re considering risk in this situation which is important to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will lead to dementia. Instead, it simply means you have a greater chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But there might be an upside.

Your risk of cognitive decline is decreased by successfully managing your hearing loss. So how do you manage your hearing loss? Here are a few ways:

  • Wearing a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids prevent cognitive decline? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be enhanced by wearing hearing aids. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t need to work so hard to have discussions. Research indicates that treating hearing loss can help reduce your risk of developing dementia in the future. That’s not the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.
  • Make an appointment with us to identify your existing hearing loss.
  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are some measures you can take to protect your hearing. You could, for instance, wear hearing protection if you work in a loud environment and steer clear of noisy events like concerts or sporting events.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other strategies

Naturally, there are other things you can do to lower your chance of dementia, too. Here are a few examples:

  • Exercise is necessary for good general health including hearing health.
  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to use medication to lower it.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, and that includes your risk of developing dementia (excessive alcohol use can also go on this list).
  • Getting enough sleep at night is imperative. Some studies have linked an increased chance of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep each night.

The connection between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being researched by scientists. It’s a complex disease with a matrix of causes. But any way you can decrease your risk is good.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your general risk of dementia. You’ll be improving your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more confused conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Losing out on the important things in life stinks. And a little bit of hearing loss management, possibly in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us today!



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.