Your Risk of Getting Dementia Could be Reduced by Having Regular Hearing Exams

Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to understand. It was found that even minor untreated hearing impairment increases your risk of developing dementia.

These two seemingly unconnected health disorders may have a pathological link. So how can a hearing test help decrease the danger of hearing loss related dementia?

Dementia, what is it?

Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent form of cognitive decline the majority of individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects around five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear mechanisms are very intricate and each one is important in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they move toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain decodes.

Over time these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.

Research suggests that this slow loss of hearing isn’t only an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.

Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:

  • Memory impairment
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Overall diminished health
  • Reduction in alertness

And the more severe your hearing loss the greater your risk of dementia. Even slight hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and very severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher risk. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory issues are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why is a hearing assessment important?

Not everyone appreciates how even minor hearing loss impacts their overall health. For most, the decline is slow so they don’t always realize there is an issue. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

We will be able to properly evaluate your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with regular hearing exams.

Using hearing aids to decrease the risk

The current hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a major role in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and alleviates the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.

There is no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t develop dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss accelerates that decline. Having regular hearing exams to identify and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.

Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re concerned that you might be coping with hearing loss.

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.