What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was discovered that even minor untreated hearing loss increases your risk of developing dementia.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders might have a pathological link. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help fight it?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. People tend to 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 type of dementia. Exactly how hearing health impacts the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are very intricate and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration travel 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 send electrical signals that the brain decodes.
Over time, many people develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. The result is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to understand sound.
Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the added effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher risk of developing dementia.
Here are several disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Weak overall health
- Inability to master new tasks
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
The risk of developing dementia can increase based on the severity of your hearing loss, also. A person with only mild hearing loss has twice the risk. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and somebody with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing dementia. 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 severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why is a hearing assessment important?
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. For most people, the decline is gradual so they don’t always know there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
We will be able to effectively assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to decrease the danger
The present theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a major part in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. 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. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to understand the sounds it’s getting.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists think hearing loss quickens that decline. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
If you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing assessment.