What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to understand. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
Scientists believe that there might be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So, how does loss of hearing put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help fight it?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common type 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 type of dementia. Today, medical science has a complete understanding of how hearing health alters 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 move toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain decodes.
Over time these tiny hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud sound. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.
Research reveals that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t just an inconsequential part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Memory impairment
- Reduction in alertness
- Weak overall health
- Trouble learning new skills
And the more extreme your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. An individual with just minor impairment has twice the risk. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater risk. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They found that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to cause memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing exam matters
Hearing loss affects the overall health and that would most likely surprise many people. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it’s not so noticeable.
We will be able to effectively assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.
Minimizing the danger with hearing aids
The present hypothesis is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant part in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and alleviates the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work as hard to understand the audio messages it’s getting.
There’s no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive problems. The key to decreasing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
If you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing examination.