Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is higher with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders might have a pathological link. So how can a hearing exam help decrease the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type of cognitive decline the majority of people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts around five million people in the U.S. Today, medical science has a complete understanding of how hearing health alters the risk 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 amplified as they move toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, little hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain translates.
As time passes, many individuals develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these fragile hair cells. The result is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to comprehend sound.
Research reveals that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the added effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher risk of developing dementia.
Here are a few disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Weak overall health
- Impaired memory
- Inability to master new tasks
- Reduction in alertness
And the more severe your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. An individual with just minor impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater danger. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory issues are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why is a hearing assessment worthwhile?
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would probably surprise many people. Most people don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is less obvious.
Scheduling routine comprehensive assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly evaluate hearing health and track any decline as it happens.
Decreasing the risk with hearing aids
Scientists currently think that the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The strain on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while boosting 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. But scientists think hearing loss quickens that decline. Getting routine hearing exams to detect and manage hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.
Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you may be coping with hearing loss.