Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Link?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

Want to suck all the fun out of your next family get-together? Start talking about dementia.

The subject of dementia can be really scary and most people aren’t going to purposely discuss it. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory issues. No one wants to experience that.

This is why many people are seeking a way to counter, or at least slow, the advancement of dementia. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and neglected hearing loss.

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the risks of dementia increased with hearing loss?

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the consequences?

You recognize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of worries. You can just turn up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just turn on the captions.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unobserved so far. Maybe the signs are still easy to disregard. Mental decline and hearing impairment are clearly connected either way. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes more difficult to understand. As a result, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You might become distant from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with others as much. It’s not good for your brain to separate yourself like this. And naturally your social life. Additionally, many people who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they most likely won’t connect their isolation to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t get nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stick with us). This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This is unbelievably taxing. The present theory is, when this occurs, your brain pulls power from your thinking and memory centers. The thinking is that after a while this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental stress and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain having to work so hard.

You might have suspected that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it actually is.

Hearing loss is one of the major indicators of dementia

Perhaps your hearing loss is mild. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else is normal. Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to get dementia as somebody who doesn’t have hearing loss.

Meaning that even mild hearing loss is a pretty strong initial indication of a risk of dementia.

So… How should we understand this?

Well, it’s essential not to forget that we’re dealing with risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will lead to dementia. Rather, it just means you have a greater risk of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But there might be an upside.

Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by effectively dealing with your hearing loss. So how do you deal with your hearing loss? Here are several ways:

  • The impact of hearing loss can be decreased by wearing hearing aids. So, can dementia be prevented by wearing hearing aids? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be enhanced by wearing hearing aids. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t need to work so hard to carry on conversations. Research indicates that managing hearing loss can help reduce your danger of developing dementia when you get older. That isn’t the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.
  • Come in and see us so we can help you diagnose any hearing loss you may have.
  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are some measures you can take to protect your hearing. For example, you could stay away from noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).

Other ways to decrease your dementia risk

You can minimize your chance of dementia by doing some other things as well, of course. This could include:

  • Exercise is needed for good overall health including hearing health.
  • Quit smoking. Seriously. Smoking will raise your chance of cognitive decline and will impact your overall health (excessive alcohol use can also go on this list).
  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. In some cases, medication can help here, some individuals just have naturally higher blood pressure; those people could need medication sooner than later.
  • Getting sufficient sleep at night is crucial. Some studies have linked a higher risk of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep per night.

Of course, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complicated. But the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, hearing better will help decrease your overall danger of developing cognitive decline down the line. You’ll be improving your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Missing out on the important things in life is no fun. And taking steps to manage your hearing loss, perhaps by using hearing aids, can be a big help.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us right away!



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.