Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
Researchers believe that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing exam help minimize the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a common form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects about five million people in the U.S. Precisely how hearing health impacts the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear components are quite intricate and each one is important in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they move toward the inner ear. Electrical impulses are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to sound waves.
Over time these little hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. The result is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder 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 signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the ear, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:
- Weak overall health
- Reduction in alertness
- Trouble learning new skills
- Memory impairment
The likelihood of developing dementia can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Even mild hearing loss can double the danger of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and very severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University watched 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 individuals who have hearing loss significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing assessment matters
Not everybody realizes how even a little hearing loss affects their overall health. For most, the decline is progressive so they don’t always recognize there is an issue. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s not so noticeable.
Scheduling regular thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly assess hearing health and observe any decline as it happens.
Using hearing aids to reduce the danger
Scientists currently believe that the connection 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. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and alleviates the strain on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss speeds up that decline. Having regular hearing tests to detect and deal with hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.
Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss.