Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to understand. It was found that even minor neglected hearing impairment increases your risk of developing cognitive decline.

Experts think that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does loss of hearing put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help combat it?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive kind of dementia. Precisely how hearing health impacts the danger of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.

How hearing works

In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. 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 transmit electrical signals that the brain decodes.

Over the years these little hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud noise. The result is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.

Research suggests that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t only an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the extra effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.

Here are several disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:

  • Memory impairment
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Overall diminished health
  • Irritability
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Exhaustion
  • Depression

And the more severe your hearing loss the higher your risk of dementia. Even slight hearing loss can double the risk of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more significant will bring the risk up by three times and extremely severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why a hearing assessment matters

Hearing loss affects the general health and that would most likely surprise many people. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it’s less noticeable.

We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.

Minimizing the danger with hearing aids

Scientists presently believe that the relationship between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss produces. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing 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 enhancing sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.

People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive problems. Having regular hearing exams to identify and deal with hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.

Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you may be coping with hearing loss.

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