Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
Experts believe that there may be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing test help reduce the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think concisely, 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 impacted by this progressive form of dementia. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health alters the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain decodes.
Over the years these little hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot harder due to the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the additional effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher risk of developing cognitive decline.
Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Trouble learning new skills
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
- Weak overall health
And the more significant your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. Even minor hearing loss can double the risk of cognitive decline. More significant 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. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Cognitive and memory issues are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why is a hearing assessment important?
Not everyone understands how even slight hearing loss affects their general health. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with routine hearing exams.
Minimizing the danger with hearing aids
Scientists currently believe that the relationship between dementia and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain stress that hearing loss produces. 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 disrupts your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to comprehend the sounds it’s getting.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. But scientists think hearing loss accelerates that decline. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss.