Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to comprehend. Your risk of developing dementia is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unconnected health disorders may have a pathological link. So how can a hearing exam help decrease the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent form of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Around five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive form of dementia. These days, medical science has a complete understanding of how ear health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear mechanism matters. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain translates.
Over the years these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud sound. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.
Research indicates that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will try to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the extra effort to hear and this can eventually result in a higher chance of developing dementia.
Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Memory impairment
- Overall diminished health
- Reduction in alertness
- Inability to master new tasks
And the more extreme your hearing loss the higher your risk of dementia. Even minor hearing loss can double the danger of cognitive decline. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Cognitive and memory problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why is a hearing exam worthwhile?
Not everybody understands how even minor hearing loss impacts their general health. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it’s less noticeable.
We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with regular hearing exams.
Reducing the risk with hearing aids
The current theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a major part in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and relieves the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work as hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s getting.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists think hearing loss speeds up that decline. Having routine hearing exams to diagnose and manage hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to reducing that risk.
Contact us today to set up an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss.