Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to understand. It was found that even mild neglected hearing impairment increases your risk of developing dementia.
Experts think that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help fight it?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. Exactly how hearing health effects the danger of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear components are extremely intricate and each one matters in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they move toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain decodes.
Over time these little hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. The result is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will attempt to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the extra effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher chance of developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that result in:
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
- Overall diminished health
- Trouble learning new skills
The likelihood of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the extent of your hearing loss, too. An individual with just mild impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater risk. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They found that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing exam matters
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. Most individuals don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s not so noticeable.
We will be able to properly evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.
Decreasing the risk with hearing aids
Scientists presently think that the relationship between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss produces. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. The stress on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
There’s no rule that says people with normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive problems. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you may be coping with hearing loss.