Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting dementia is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions may 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 reveals that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline the majority of people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts around five million people in the U.S. Exactly how hearing health impacts the danger of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are quite intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical impulses that the brain translates.
Over time these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and insignificant 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.
Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Memory impairment
- Inability to master new tasks
- Overall diminished health
- Reduction in alertness
And the more severe your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. Even mild hearing loss can double the risk of cognitive decline. 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 risk. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Cognitive and memory issues are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why is a hearing test worthwhile?
Hearing loss affects the general health and that would most likely surprise many people. For most people, the decline is progressive so they don’t always realize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and track any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to decrease the risk
The current hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a big role in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. Based on that one fact, you could conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and alleviates the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to comprehend the sounds it’s getting.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss quickens that decline. The key to decreasing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
Contact us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss.
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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a personalized free hearing test and hearing loss consultation, call today to set up an appointment.