What’s the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to comprehend. It was discovered that even minor untreated hearing impairment increases your risk of developing dementia.
Researchers believe that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So how can a hearing test help minimize the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent form 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. Exactly how hearing health effects the risk of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear components are extremely complex and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. 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, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.
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 impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the additional effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.
Here are a few disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Overall diminished health
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
- Inability to master new tasks
And the more significant your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. Somebody with just 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 risk. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They discovered that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive problems.
Why a hearing exam matters
Not everybody understands how even slight hearing loss impacts their overall health. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.
We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they happen with regular hearing exams.
Reducing the risk with hearing aids
Scientists currently believe that the link between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss produces. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. 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 get through without as much effort.
There’s no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss quickens that decline. Having routine hearing tests to identify and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss.