What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting dementia is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
Scientists think that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So, how does hearing loss put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. People tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a prevalent form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects around five million people in the U.S. Precisely how hearing health effects the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear mechanism matters. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Electrical signals are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to sound waves.
As time passes, many individuals develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these fragile hair cells. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it difficult to understand sound.
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. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:
- Reduction in alertness
- Memory impairment
- Inability to master new tasks
- Overall diminished health
The odds of developing dementia can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, also. An individual with only mild hearing loss has double the risk. More advanced hearing loss means three times the danger and somebody with severe, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They revealed that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive problems.
Why a hearing test matters
Not everyone understands how even slight hearing loss impacts their general health. For most people, the decline is slow so they don’t always know there is a problem. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is not so obvious.
Scheduling regular comprehensive assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly assess hearing health and monitor any decline as it takes place.
Reducing the danger with hearing aids
The present theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big role in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and eases the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive issues. The key to decreasing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you may be coping with hearing loss.