Routine Hearing Exams Could Decrease Your Danger of Developing Dementia

Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

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

Experts think that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So, how does hearing loss put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing exam help fight it?

Dementia, what is it?

The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type 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. Exactly how hearing health impacts the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.

How hearing works

The ear mechanisms are extremely intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain translates.

Over time, many people develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these delicate hair cells. The outcome is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder to comprehend sound.

This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not accurate. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the extra effort to hear and this can eventually result in a higher risk of developing dementia.

Here are several disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:

  • Inability to master new tasks
  • Exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Impaired memory
  • Weak overall health
  • Reduction in alertness

And the more extreme your hearing loss the higher your risk of dementia. Even minor hearing loss can double the odds of dementia. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and extremely severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher risk. Research by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They revealed that hearing loss advanced enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive problems.

Why is a hearing exam worthwhile?

Not everyone realizes how even slight hearing loss affects their general health. For most people, the decline is gradual so they don’t always know there is a problem. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is not so obvious.

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

Decreasing the danger with hearing aids

The present hypothesis is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant role in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. The strain 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.

Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive problems. Having regular hearing exams to identify and treat hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to reducing that risk.

Call us today to make an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you may be coping with hearing loss.

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.