Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. It was found that even mild untreated hearing loss raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
Researchers believe that there may be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing exam help minimize the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. People often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a prevalent form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. Precisely how hearing health impacts the risk of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain translates.
As time passes, many people develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these fragile hair cells. The result is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder 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 decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the ear, making the individual struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for many diseases that lead to:
- Memory impairment
- Weak overall health
- Reduction in alertness
- Trouble learning new skills
The likelihood of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, too. Even slight hearing loss can double the odds of dementia. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and somebody with extreme, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing dementia. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why a hearing exam matters
Hearing loss impacts the general health and that would most likely surprise many people. Most people don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.
Scheduling regular thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly assess hearing health and observe any decline as it occurs.
Minimizing the risk with hearing aids
The present hypothesis is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big role in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The strain on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work as hard to understand the audio messages it’s getting.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. But scientists think hearing loss quickens that decline. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
If you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing assessment.