What’s the connection between hearing loss and dementia? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to understand. Your risk of developing cognitive decline is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
Experts think that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline the majority of individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive form of dementia. These days, medical science has a complete understanding of how hearing health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear components are very intricate and each one matters in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go inside 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 vibrate in response to sound waves.
Over time, many people develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot harder because of the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not accurate. The brain tries to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the additional effort to hear and this can eventually result in a higher chance of developing dementia.
Here are several disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Inability to master new tasks
- Memory impairment
- Reduction in alertness
- Weak overall health
The likelihood of developing dementia can increase based on the extent of your hearing loss, also. Someone with only minor impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more severe 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 watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They discovered that hearing loss advanced enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing assessment matters
Not everyone understands how even minor hearing loss impacts their general health. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it’s not so noticeable.
Scheduling routine thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to effectively evaluate hearing health and track any decline as it takes place.
Minimizing the danger with hearing aids
Scientists presently think that the connection between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss causes. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and relieves the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s getting.
There’s no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive issues. Getting routine hearing exams to diagnose and deal with hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
Contact us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you might be coping with hearing loss.