Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. It was found that even minor untreated hearing loss increases your risk of developing cognitive decline.
Researchers 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?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts around five million people in the U.S. Precisely how hearing health impacts the danger of dementia is finally well grasped 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 get amplified. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain translates.
Over the years these little hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. The result is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not the case. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher chance of developing dementia.
Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Inability to master new tasks
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
- Weak overall health
And the more significant your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. Even slight hearing loss can double the odds of dementia. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive issues are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing exam matters
Not everyone understands how even minor hearing loss affects their general health. For most, the decline is slow so they don’t always realize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.
Decreasing the danger with hearing aids
Scientists presently think that the connection between cognitive decline 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 interferes with your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work as hard to comprehend the sounds it’s getting.
There is no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss speeds up that decline. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
If you’re concerned that you may be suffering from hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing examination.