Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
Scientists think that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So how can a hearing test help reduce the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that decreases memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline the majority of people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how ear health alters the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are extremely intricate and each one is important in relation to good hearing. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain decodes.
Over the years these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud sound. The result is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
Research reveals that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t only an inconsequential part of aging. 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 person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for lots of diseases that result in:
- Memory impairment
- Reduction in alertness
- Overall diminished health
- Inability to master new tasks
The odds of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, too. A person with only mild hearing loss has twice the risk. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and very severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater risk. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They revealed that hearing loss significant enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to cause memory and cognitive issues.
Why is a hearing exam important?
Not everyone appreciates how even a little hearing loss affects their general health. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to decrease the danger
The current theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a major role in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and alleviates the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive issues. The key to decreasing that risk is routine hearing exams to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
Contact us today to make an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss.