Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to comprehend. Your risk of developing cognitive decline is increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
Experts believe that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing test help reduce the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and decrease socialization skills. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a prevalent form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects 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 complex and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. 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 time these tiny hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not accurate. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the ear, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:
- Weak overall health
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
- Inability to master new tasks
The risk of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, also. Even mild hearing loss can double the odds of dementia. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and very severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater danger. Research by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why is a hearing test worthwhile?
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would probably surprise many people. For most people, the decline is slow so they don’t always know there is an issue. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
Scheduling regular thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly evaluate hearing health and track any decline as it happens.
Minimizing the risk with hearing aids
The present theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big role in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The strain 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 get through without as much effort.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive problems. Getting routine hearing exams to identify and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss.