Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to understand. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
Researchers think that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing exam help decrease the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects about five million people in the U.S. Precisely how hearing health effects the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear components are quite complex and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration travel 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 vibrate in response to waves of sound.
Over the years these little hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. The result is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not accurate. 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.
Here are a few disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Reduction in alertness
- Inability to master new tasks
- Overall diminished health
- Memory impairment
The risk of developing dementia can increase depending on the degree of your hearing loss, too. Even minor hearing loss can double the danger of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and extremely severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They found that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.
Why is a hearing test important?
Not everyone appreciates how even slight hearing loss impacts their overall health. Most people don’t even know they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
Scheduling routine thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly evaluate hearing health and observe any decline as it takes place.
Reducing the risk with hearing aids
Scientists presently believe that the connection between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you could conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. The stress on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss quickens 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 affect on brain health.
If you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing assessment.