Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Link?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

Want to suck all the joy out of your next family get-together? Start talking about dementia.

Dementia isn’t a subject most people are intentionally seeking to discuss, mainly because it’s pretty scary. A degenerative mental disease in which you slowly (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory problems. No one wants to go through that.

For this reason, many individuals are looking for a way to prevent, or at least delay, the development of dementia. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have some pretty clear connections and correlations.

You might be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, actually)? Why are the dangers of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

What occurs when your hearing impairment is neglected?

You recognize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of concerns. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your television won’t solve, right? Maybe you’ll simply put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unnoticed so far. Perhaps the signs are still hard to detect. Mental decline and hearing impairment are strongly connected either way. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. You could start to keep yourself secluded from others because of this. You can draw away from family, friends, and loved ones. You speak to others less. It’s not good for your brain to isolate yourself like this. It’s not good for your social life either. What’s more, many people who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they likely won’t attribute their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This is incredibly taxing. Your brain will then need to get extra power from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the current concept). The thinking is that over time this contributes to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also result in all kinds of other symptoms, like mental stress and tiredness.

So your hearing impairment isn’t quite as harmless as you might have thought.

One of the major signs of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you only have slight hearing impairment. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else is just fine. Well, even with that, your risk of getting dementia is doubled.

Meaning that even minor hearing loss is a fairly strong initial sign of a dementia risk.

Now… What does that suggest?

Well, it’s essential not to forget that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of dementia or even an early symptom of dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a greater chance of developing cognitive decline. But there could be an upside.

Your risk of dementia is decreased by effectively managing your hearing loss. So how do you manage your hearing loss? There are several ways:

  • Make an appointment with us to diagnose your present hearing loss.
  • You can take a few steps to protect your hearing from further damage if you catch your hearing loss early enough. For example, you could steer clear of noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re around anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Using a hearing aid can help minimize the impact of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids prevent dementia? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we recognize that brain function can be enhanced by using hearing aids. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be capable of participating in more conversations, your brain won’t have to work as hard, and you’ll be a little more socially connected. Research suggests that treating hearing loss can help decrease your danger of developing dementia when you get older. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.

Other ways to decrease your dementia risk

Of course, there are other things you can do to decrease your risk of cognitive decline, too. This might include:

  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, including your risk of experiencing cognitive decline (excessive alcohol use can also go on this list).
  • Make sure you get plenty of sleep each night. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep every night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • Exercise is necessary for good general health and that includes hearing health.
  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is generally healthy can go a long way. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to use medication to lower it.

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being studied by scientists. There are so many causes that make this disease so complex. But the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of dementia. But it isn’t just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more confused conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And taking steps to manage your hearing loss, perhaps by using hearing aids, can be a big help.

So call us today for an appointment.



The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.