Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Connection?

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

If you start talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will probably put a dark cloud over the whole event.

Dementia isn’t a subject most people are intentionally looking to talk about, mostly because it’s rather frightening. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, makes you lose a grip on reality, experience loss of memory, and causes an over-all loss of mental function. Nobody wants to experience that.

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

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, it turns out)? Why are the dangers of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

When you disregard 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 concerns. You can simply crank up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Maybe the signs are still subtle. Either way, hearing loss and mental decline have a strong connection. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. You could start to keep yourself isolated from others as a result of this. You can withdraw from friends, family, and loved ones. You speak to others less. This type of social separation is, well, bad for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Additionally, many individuals who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they most likely won’t attribute their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will begin to work a lot harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. As a result, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This is extremely taxing. The current theory is, when this takes place, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. The thinking is that over time this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental stress and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain having to work so hard.

So your hearing loss is not quite as innocuous as you may have suspected.

Hearing loss is one of the leading indicators of dementia

Perhaps your hearing loss is mild. Whispers may get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to develop dementia as somebody who does not have hearing loss.

So one of the preliminary signs of dementia can be even minor hearing loss.

Now… What does that mean?

We’re considering risk in this situation which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t a guarantee of dementia or even an early symptom of dementia. Instead, it just means you have a greater risk of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But there may be an upside.

Because it means that successfully managing your hearing loss can help you reduce your risk of dementia. So how can hearing loss be controlled? There are several ways:

  • The impact of hearing loss can be decreased by wearing hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids prevent cognitive decline? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be improved by using hearing aids. This is why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to carry on conversations. Your risk of developing dementia in the future is reduced by managing hearing loss, research suggests. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • You can take a few measures to safeguard your hearing from further damage if you detect your hearing loss early enough. As an example, you could steer clear of noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re around anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Schedule an appointment with us to identify your current hearing loss.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other methods

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

  • Quit smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, and that includes your risk of developing cognitive decline (excessive alcohol use is also on this list).
  • Get some exercise.
  • Eating a healthy diet, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. In some cases, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those people may need medication sooner rather than later.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep every night. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep each night to a higher risk of dementia.

Needless to say, scientists are still researching the connection between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complex. But any way you can decrease your risk is good.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of dementia. You’ll be bettering your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely visits to the grocery store.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And taking steps to deal with your hearing loss, possibly by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.

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.