Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was found that even mild neglected hearing loss raises your risk of developing dementia.

Scientists believe that there might be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline the majority of individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. 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 understood by scientists.

How hearing works

The ear components are extremely intricate and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are boosted as they move toward the inner ear. Electrical impulses are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to sound waves.

Over time, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.

Research suggests that this slow loss of hearing isn’t only an irrelevant part of aging. 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 fatigued 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 lead to:

  • Exhaustion
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Weak overall health
  • Memory impairment
  • Irritability
  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Depression

And the more extreme your hearing loss the greater your risk of dementia. Even minor hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with extreme, 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 found that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to cause memory and cognitive problems.

Why is a hearing test worthwhile?

Not everybody realizes how even slight hearing loss affects their overall health. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it’s not so obvious.

Scheduling routine thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly assess hearing health and observe 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 stress that hearing loss produces. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. The strain on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable 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 who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive problems. Having routine hearing exams to detect and manage hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.

If you’re concerned that you may be suffering from hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing assessment.

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