Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to comprehend. It was discovered that even minor neglected hearing loss raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
These two seemingly unrelated health conditions may have a pathological connection. So, how does loss of hearing put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help combat it?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, clear 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. Around 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 risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear components are quite intricate and each one matters in relation to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to sound waves.
Over time, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these delicate hair cells. The result is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder to comprehend sound.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not the case. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. That effort puts strain on the ear, making the individual struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that lead to:
- Weak overall health
- Inability to master new tasks
- Memory impairment
- Reduction in alertness
The risk of developing dementia can increase based on the severity of your hearing loss, also. Even minor hearing loss can double the danger of dementia. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with extreme, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. Research by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of more than 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 is a hearing exam important?
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would probably surprise many individuals. For most, the decline is progressive so they don’t always realize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
Scheduling routine thorough assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly assess hearing health and track any decline as it happens.
Using hearing aids to reduce the danger
The current hypothesis is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a major 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 boosts sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and relieves the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s getting.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive issues. The key to decreasing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you might be coping with hearing loss.