What’s the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. It was found that even mild neglected hearing loss raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
These two seemingly unconnected health conditions may have a pathological link. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?
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. Around five million people in the US are affected by this progressive form of dementia. Precisely how hearing health impacts the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are extremely complex and each one matters in relation to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain translates.
As time passes, many individuals develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these delicate hair cells. The result is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
Research reveals that this slow loss of hearing isn’t just an inconsequential part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the ear, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Overall diminished health
- Reduction in alertness
- Memory impairment
- Inability to master new tasks
The odds of developing dementia can increase depending on the degree of your hearing loss, too. A person with only minor hearing loss has twice the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why is a hearing test important?
Not everyone appreciates how even minor hearing loss impacts their overall health. For most, the decline is gradual so they don’t always know there is an issue. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s not so noticeable.
We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to reduce the danger
Scientists currently think that the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and relieves the strain on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.
There’s no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss speeds up that decline. Getting regular hearing tests to diagnose and manage hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to reducing that risk.
If you’re concerned that you might be suffering from hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing examination.