Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Link?

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

If you start talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will most likely put a dark cloud over the entire event.

The topic of dementia can be really scary and most people aren’t going to purposely talk about it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, makes you lose a grip on reality, experience loss of memory, and brings about an over-all loss of mental function. No one wants to go through that.

So preventing or at least delaying dementia is a priority for many people. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have some pretty clear connections and correlations.

You might be surprised by that. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the risks of dementia increased with hearing loss?

When you disregard hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

Maybe you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you’re not too worried about it. You can simply crank up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just turn on the captions.

Or maybe your hearing loss has gone unnoticed so far. Maybe the signs are still subtle. Cognitive decline and hearing loss are clearly linked either way. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. As a result, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You may become distant from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with others as often. It’s bad for your brain to isolate yourself this way. It’s not good for your social life either. What’s more, many people who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they most likely won’t connect their isolation to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stick with us). This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. Your brain will then need to get extra energy from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the current theory). It’s believed that this could quicken the development of dementia. Mental fatigue and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the outcome of your brain having to work so hard.

So your hearing impairment is not quite as innocuous as you might have suspected.

Hearing loss is one of the leading signs of dementia

Maybe your hearing loss is slight. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else is normal. Well, turns out you’re still two times as likely to get dementia as somebody who does not have hearing loss.

Which means that even minor hearing loss is a pretty good initial sign of a dementia risk.

So… How should we understand this?

We’re looking at risk in this situation which is important to note. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of cognitive decline or even an early symptom of dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a greater risk of developing cognitive decline. But that might actually be good news.

Your risk of dementia is lowered by successfully dealing with your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be controlled? Here are a few ways:

  • The impact of hearing loss can be decreased by using hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids stop cognitive decline? That’s hard to say, but hearing aids can enhance brain function. This is the reason why: You’ll be able to participate in more conversations, your brain won’t need to work so hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially connected. Your risk of developing dementia later in life is decreased by managing hearing loss, research suggests. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • Come in and see us so we can help you diagnose any hearing loss you might have.
  • You can take a few steps to safeguard your hearing from further harm if you catch your hearing loss soon enough. You could, for instance, use ear protection if you work in a loud environment and avoid noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other methods

Naturally, there are other things you can do to decrease your chance of dementia, too. This could include:

  • Get some exercise.
  • Eating a healthy diet, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to take medication to lower it.
  • Quit smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, and that includes your risk of developing cognitive decline (this list also includes excessive alcohol use).
  • Make sure you get enough sleep each night. Some research links an increased chance of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep every night.

Needless to say, scientists are still researching the connection between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complicated disease with an array of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help reduce your general danger of developing dementia in the future. But it isn’t just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely trips to the grocery store.

It’s no fun missing out on life’s important moments. And a little bit of hearing loss management, perhaps in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us today!



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.

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