What’s the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to understand. It was discovered that even minor untreated hearing impairment raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
Experts believe that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. 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 concisely, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent form 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. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how ear health alters the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re 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 decodes.
As time passes, many people develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot harder because of the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.
Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t just an inconsequential part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Inability to master new tasks
- Overall diminished health
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
The risk of developing dementia can increase depending on the degree of your hearing loss, also. Even minor hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more severe will raise the risk by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher danger. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory problems are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why a hearing assessment matters
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would most likely surprise many people. For most, the decline is slow so they don’t always realize there is a problem. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is not so noticeable.
Scheduling routine comprehensive assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly assess hearing health and monitor any decline as it happens.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
The current hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant role in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. The stress on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to understand the sounds it’s receiving.
There’s no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive issues. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you might be coping with hearing loss.