Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to understand. Your risk of developing dementia is increased with even mild hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders might have a pathological connection. So, how does hearing loss put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing test help fight it?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent form of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects about five million people in the U.S. Today, medical science has a complete understanding of how hearing health increases the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are very complex and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are boosted as they move toward the inner ear. Electrical signals are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to sound waves.
Over time, many individuals develop a slow decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and jumbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the ear, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Here are a few disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
- Inability to master new tasks
- Overall diminished health
The likelihood of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the degree of your hearing loss, also. Even slight hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and somebody with severe, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Cognitive and memory issues are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why is a hearing test worthwhile?
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would probably surprise many individuals. Most people don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is not so obvious.
Scheduling regular thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to effectively assess hearing health and monitor any decline as it happens.
Minimizing the risk with hearing aids
Scientists presently believe that the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss produces. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. The stress on your brain will be decreased 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.
There’s no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss accelerates that decline. Getting routine hearing tests to diagnose and deal with hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.
Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss.