What’s the Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will probably put a dark cloud above the entire event.

The subject of dementia can be really frightening and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. A degenerative cognitive disease in which you slowly (or, more terrifyingly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory problems. No one wants to go through that.

For this reason, many individuals are seeking a way to counter, or at least delay, the development of dementia. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have some fairly clear connections and correlations.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why does hearing loss raise chances of dementia?

What takes place when your hearing loss goes untreated?

Perhaps you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you’re not that worried about it. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your television won’t solve, right? Maybe you’ll just put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unobserved so far. Perhaps the signs are still easy to dismiss. In either case, hearing loss and mental decline have a strong correlation. That might have something to do with what happens when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes more difficult to understand. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You can draw away from friends, family, and loved ones. You speak to others less. It’s bad for your brain to isolate yourself like this. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most individuals who have this kind of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working harder. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stay with us). Because of this, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This is incredibly taxing. The present concept is, when this takes place, your brain pulls power from your thinking and memory centers. The thinking is that over time this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also result in all manner of other symptoms, like mental stress and tiredness.

You might have suspected that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.

Hearing loss is one of the primary signs of dementia

Let’s say you have only slight hearing loss. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else sounds normal. Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.

So one of the preliminary signs of dementia can be even mild hearing loss.

Now… What does that mean?

We’re considering risk in this situation which is important to note. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of cognitive decline or even an early symptom of dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a greater chance of developing cognitive decline. But there might be an upside.

Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by successfully managing your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be controlled? There are numerous ways:

  • The affect of hearing loss can be decreased by using hearing aids. So, can dementia be avoided by wearing hearing aids? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can improve brain function. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be capable of participating in more conversations, your brain won’t have to work as hard, and you’ll be a little more socially connected. Research indicates that treating hearing loss can help decrease your risk of developing dementia in the future. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are some measures you can take to safeguard your hearing. For example, you could avoid noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re near anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Come see us so we can help you diagnose any hearing loss you might have.

Other ways to decrease your dementia risk

You can decrease your risk of cognitive decline by doing some other things too, of course. This might include:

  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will raise your risk of cognitive decline as well as impacting your overall health (excessive alcohol use is also on this list).
  • Getting adequate sleep at night is imperative. There are studies that link fewer than four hours of sleep each night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • Exercise is necessary for good overall health including hearing health.
  • Eating a healthy diet, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to bring it down.

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being researched by scientists. It’s a complicated disease with a matrix of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of cognitive decline. But it’s not just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s now. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely visits to the grocery store.

Missing out on the important things in life is no fun. And taking steps to control your hearing loss, perhaps by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.

So call us today for an appointment.

References

https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2021/hearing-loss-and-the-dementia-connection

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.