What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to comprehend. Your risk of getting dementia is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
Researchers believe that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So how can a hearing test help minimize the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. Individuals tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a prevalent form. Around five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive kind of dementia. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how ear health increases the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical impulses that the brain translates.
As time passes, many people develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. The result is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it difficult to understand sound.
Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will try to decode them anyway. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Trouble learning new skills
- Reduction in alertness
- Weak overall health
- Impaired memory
The risk of developing dementia can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Even mild hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and somebody with extreme, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing cognitive decline. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory issues are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why a hearing exam matters
Hearing loss affects the general health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. Most individuals don’t even know they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s less obvious.
We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and track any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.
Minimizing the risk with hearing aids
The present theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a major role in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. 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 undesirable background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to comprehend the sounds it’s receiving.
There’s no rule that says individuals 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. Getting regular hearing tests to identify and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss.