Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to understand. It was discovered that even mild 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 issues. So how can a hearing exam help decrease the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type of cognitive decline most individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive kind of dementia. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health alters the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they travel toward the inner ear. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to sound waves.
Over the years these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud sound. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot more difficult due to the reduction of electrical signals to the brain.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research suggests that’s not accurate. Whether the impulses are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the ear, making the individual struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Reduction in alertness
- Weak overall health
- Memory impairment
- Trouble learning new skills
And the more significant your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. Somebody with just mild impairment has twice the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and somebody with extreme, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing cognitive decline. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They revealed that hearing loss significant enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to cause memory and cognitive issues.
Why is a hearing assessment worthwhile?
Hearing loss affects the general health and that would probably surprise many individuals. For most, the decline is slow so they don’t always recognize there is a problem. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.
Scheduling routine thorough assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly evaluate hearing health and observe any decline as it takes place.
Using hearing aids to decrease the risk
Scientists currently believe that the relationship between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. The strain on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.
There is no rule that says people who have normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive problems. The key to decreasing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss.