Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to comprehend. Your risk of developing dementia is increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions may have a pathological link. So, how does loss of hearing put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help combat it?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. Individuals tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a prevalent form. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive kind of dementia. Exactly how hearing health effects the danger of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Electrical signals are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to sound waves.
Over time these tiny hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot more difficult because of the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not accurate. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decode them anyway. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for lots of diseases that lead to:
- Trouble learning new skills
- Reduction in alertness
- Overall diminished health
- Memory impairment
And the more significant your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. Even slight hearing loss can double the risk of cognitive decline. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and someone with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing exam matters
Hearing loss impacts the general health and that would probably surprise many people. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is less obvious.
Scheduling regular thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to effectively evaluate hearing health and monitor any decline as it happens.
Reducing the danger with hearing aids
The present hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a big role in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s receiving.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists think hearing loss accelerates that decline. Getting regular hearing tests to identify and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.
If you’re worried that you might be suffering from hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing examination.