Your Risk of Getting Dementia Could be Reduced by Having Routine Hearing Exams

Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

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 minor untreated hearing loss 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 hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help fight it?

What is dementia?

The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a group of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce 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 around five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how ear health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear components are very intricate and each one is important in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go inside 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 impulses that the brain decodes.

Over time these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. Comprehension of sound becomes much harder because of the decrease of electrical signals to the brain.

Research indicates that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the impulses are unclear and jumbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the ear, making the individual struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.

Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:

  • Irritability
  • Memory impairment
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Exhaustion
  • Weak overall health
  • Depression
  • Reduction in alertness

The risk of developing dementia can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, too. Even minor hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and somebody with severe, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. A study conducted 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 lead to memory and cognitive problems.

Why a hearing assessment matters

Hearing loss affects the general health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. For most, the decline is slow so they don’t always recognize there is an issue. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it’s not so obvious.

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

Reducing the risk with hearing aids

Scientists presently think that the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain stress that hearing loss produces. Based on that one fact, you could conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The stress on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted 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 thinks is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive problems. Getting regular hearing exams to diagnose and manage hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to reducing that risk.

If you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing assessment.

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.