Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to understand. Your risk of getting dementia is increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders might have a pathological connection. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
What is dementia?
The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and reduce socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type of cognitive decline the majority of individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. Around five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive type of dementia. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how ear health increases the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the complex ear mechanism matters. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are boosted as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain decodes.
Over time, many people develop a slow decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. The outcome is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not the case. Whether the impulses are unclear and jumbled, the brain will attempt to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the additional effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher chance of developing dementia.
Here are a few disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Reduction in alertness
- Overall diminished health
- Trouble learning new skills
- Impaired memory
And the more extreme your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. Even mild hearing loss can double the danger of cognitive decline. More advanced hearing loss means three times the risk and someone with extreme, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing cognitive decline. Research by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Cognitive and memory problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.
Why is a hearing assessment important?
Hearing loss affects the general health and that would probably surprise many people. Most people don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is not so obvious.
We will be able to properly evaluate your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with routine hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to reduce the danger
Scientists presently think that the relationship between cognitive decline and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain stress that hearing loss causes. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and eases the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.
Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists think hearing loss speeds up that decline. Getting routine hearing tests to diagnose and manage hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.
Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you might be coping with hearing loss.