Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of developing dementia is increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unconnected health disorders could have a pathological connection. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type of cognitive decline most individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a complete understanding of how hearing health alters the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear mechanism matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain translates.
Over time, many people develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these delicate hair cells. 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 indicates that’s not the case. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:
- Trouble learning new skills
- Reduction in alertness
- Overall diminished health
- Memory impairment
And the more severe your hearing loss the greater your risk of dementia. Even slight hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and somebody with extreme, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing dementia. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why a hearing assessment matters
Hearing loss affects the overall health and that would probably surprise many individuals. For most people, the decline is slow so they don’t always realize there is a problem. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s not so obvious.
Scheduling routine comprehensive exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly evaluate hearing health and monitor any decline as it takes place.
Minimizing the danger with hearing aids
Scientists presently believe that the link between dementia and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain stress that hearing loss produces. Based on that one fact, you may 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. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work as hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s getting.
There is no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive problems. Getting routine hearing exams to detect and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
If you’re concerned that you may be suffering from hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing evaluation.