What’s the Connection Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

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

Want to take all the fun out of your next family get-together? Start to talk about dementia.

The subject of dementia can be very scary and most individuals aren’t going to purposely discuss it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, causes you to lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory, and causes a general loss of mental function. It isn’t something anybody looks forward to.

So preventing or at least delaying dementia is a priority for many individuals. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have some pretty clear connections and correlations.

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

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

You recognize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it isn’t at the top of your list of concerns. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your television won’t solve, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just turn on the captions.

On the other hand, maybe you haven’t noticed your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still hard to detect. Either way, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a strong connection. That might have something to do with what happens when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes more difficult to understand. You could start to keep yourself secluded from others because of this. You can draw away from friends, family, and loved ones. You speak to others less. This type of social separation is, well, not good for your brain. And naturally your social life. Additionally, many individuals who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they probably won’t attribute their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working harder. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t get nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stick with us). As a result, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This will really tire your brain out. Your brain will then need to get additional power from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the current theory). It’s believed that this could hasten the onset of cognitive decline. Mental fatigue and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the result of your brain needing to work so hard.

You may have thought that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it really is.

One of the major indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Maybe your hearing loss is mild. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else is normal. Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to develop dementia as someone who does not have hearing loss.

Which means that even mild hearing loss is a pretty strong initial indication of a risk of dementia.

Now… What does that suggest?

We’re looking at risk in this situation which is important to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there’s no guarantee it will result in dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a greater risk of developing cognitive decline. But that might actually be good news.

Because it means that effectively managing your hearing loss can help you decrease your risk of cognitive decline. So how can you deal with your hearing loss? There are a number of ways:

  • Come see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you might have.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your hearing. You could, for instance, wear hearing protection if you work in a noisy environment and steer clear of noisy events like concerts or sporting events.
  • The impact of hearing loss can be minimized by wearing hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids prevent cognitive decline? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be improved by wearing hearing aids. This is the reason why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t need to work so hard to have discussions. Research indicates that treating hearing loss can help reduce your danger of developing dementia in the future. That isn’t the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other methods

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

  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. In some cases, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those people may need medication sooner than later.
  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep each night. Some research links a higher chance of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep each night.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Quit smoking. Seriously. Smoking will increase your risk of cognitive decline and will impact your overall health (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).

Needless to say, scientists are still researching the link between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. There are so many causes that make this disease so complex. But the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of cognitive decline. You’ll be bettering your life now, not only in the future. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more muffled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely trips to the grocery store.

It’s no fun missing out on life’s important moments. And a little bit of hearing loss management, maybe in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us today!



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.