Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was discovered that even minor untreated hearing loss raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions may have a pathological link. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. People tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a common form. Around five million people in the US are affected by this progressive kind of dementia. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how ear health alters the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the complex ear mechanism matters. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they move toward the inner ear. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain translates.
Over the years these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. The result is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not accurate. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the extra effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that result in:
- Impaired memory
- Reduction in alertness
- Weak overall health
- Inability to master new tasks
The risk of developing dementia can increase based on the degree of your hearing loss, also. An individual with just mild hearing loss has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher risk. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They found that hearing loss advanced enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.
Why is a hearing test worthwhile?
Hearing loss affects the overall health and that would probably surprise many people. Most people don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
Scheduling routine comprehensive assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly evaluate hearing health and monitor any decline as it occurs.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
Scientists currently think that the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss causes. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. The stress on your brain will be reduced 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 develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive issues. The key to decreasing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
If you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing assessment.