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Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to comprehend. Your risk of developing dementia is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.

These two seemingly unrelated health conditions could have a pathological link. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?

Dementia, what is it?

Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Around five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive kind of dementia. These days, medical science has a complete understanding of how ear health alters the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear components are extremely complex and each one matters in relation to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain decodes.

As time passes, many individuals develop a slow decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot harder due to the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.

This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. The brain tries to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing dementia.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that result in:

  • Memory impairment
  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Overall diminished health
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Irritability

The odds of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the severity of your hearing loss, also. Even mild hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and somebody with severe, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. Research by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 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 issues.

Why a hearing assessment matters

Not everybody appreciates how even a little hearing loss impacts their general health. For most people, the decline is slow so they don’t always recognize there is a problem. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is less obvious.

We will be able to properly evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.

Using hearing aids to reduce the danger

The present hypothesis is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big part in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. The strain on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work as hard to comprehend the sounds it’s receiving.

There’s no rule that says people with normal hearing won’t develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive problems. 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 worried that you might be suffering from hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing assessment.

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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.