Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Link?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

Want to take all the joy out of your next family get-together? Start talking about dementia.

The topic of dementia can be very scary and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, causes you to lose touch with reality, experience memory loss, and causes a general loss of mental faculties. It’s not something anyone looks forward to.

So stopping or at least slowing dementia is important for many people. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have some fairly clear connections and correlations.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, actually)? Why does hearing loss increase chances of dementia?

When you disregard hearing loss, what are the consequences?

You realize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of concerns. You can just crank up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unnoticed so far. Perhaps the signs are still easy to dismiss. Mental decline and hearing loss are firmly connected either way. That could have something to do with what occurs when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You may become removed from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with others as much. This type of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most people who have this type of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This is unbelievably taxing. The current concept is, when this occurs, your brain draws power from your thought and memory centers. It’s thought that this might quicken the onset of cognitive decline. Your brain working so hard can also cause all manner of other symptoms, like mental stress and tiredness.

So your hearing impairment is not quite as innocuous as you might have suspected.

Hearing loss is one of the leading indicators of dementia

Let’s say you have only mild hearing impairment. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else is normal. Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.

So one of the initial signs of dementia can be even mild hearing loss.

Now… What does that mean?

Well, it’s essential to remember that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there’s no guarantee it will lead to dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a higher chance of developing cognitive decline. But that might actually be good news.

Because it means that effectively managing your hearing loss can help you reduce your chance of cognitive decline. So how do you deal with your hearing loss? There are several ways:

  • Come in and see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you might have.
  • The affect of hearing loss can be minimized by wearing hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids stop cognitive decline? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be improved by using hearing aids. Here’s why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t need to work so hard to have conversations. Research indicates that managing hearing loss can help minimize your risk of developing dementia when you get older. That’s not the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain measures you can take to safeguard your hearing. As an example, you could avoid noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re near anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).

Lowering your risk of dementia – other methods

You can decrease your risk of dementia by doing some other things as well, of course. This could include:

  • Eating more healthy food, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. Sometimes, medication can help here, some people simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those people may need medication sooner than later.
  • Getting enough sleep at night is essential. Some studies have linked a higher chance of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep per night.
  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will raise your risk of dementia and will impact your general health (excessive alcohol use can also go on this list).
  • Exercise is needed for good overall health and that includes hearing health.

The connection between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being studied by scientists. It’s a complex disease with a matrix of causes. But any way you can decrease your risk is good.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your overall risk of cognitive decline. But it’s not just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more confused conversations, no more misunderstandings.

It’s no fun missing out on life’s important moments. And taking steps to deal with your hearing loss, possibly by using hearing aids, can be a big help.

So call us today for an appointment.



The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.