Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Link?

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

If you start talking about dementia at your next family gathering, you will most likely put a dark cloud above the whole event.

Dementia is not a topic most people are actively seeking to talk about, mostly because it’s rather scary. A degenerative mental disease in which you slowly (or, more terrifyingly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory loss. Nobody wants to go through that.

This is why many people are seeking a way to counter, or at least slow, the advancement of dementia. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have some fairly clear connections and correlations.

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the risks of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

What takes place when your hearing loss goes untreated?

You recognize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of worries. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your television won’t fix, right? Maybe you’ll simply 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 subtle. Mental decline and hearing impairment are strongly linked either way. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. You could begin to keep yourself secluded from others because of this. You can withdraw from friends, family, and loved ones. You won’t talk with others as often. It’s bad for your brain to separate yourself like this. Not to mention your social life. Further, most people who have this type of isolation won’t even recognize that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. Your ears will collect less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This will really exhaust your brain. The current concept is, when this takes place, your brain draws power from your thinking and memory centers. It’s thought that this might quicken the development of dementia. Mental fatigue and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain having to work so hard.

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

Hearing loss is one of the major signs of dementia

Let’s say you just have slight hearing loss. Whispers might get lost, but you can hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to develop dementia as somebody who doesn’t have hearing loss.

Which means that even mild hearing loss is a fairly strong preliminary indication of a risk of dementia.

Now… What does that mean?

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 lead to dementia. Instead, it just means you have a higher chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But there could be an upside.

Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by effectively dealing with your hearing loss. So how can you manage your hearing loss? Here are a few ways:

  • Come in and see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you may have.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain steps you can take to protect your hearing. For example, you could stay away from noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re around anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Using a hearing aid can help reduce the affect of hearing loss. So, can dementia be prevented by wearing hearing aids? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be improved by using hearing aids. This is why: You’ll be capable of participating in more conversations, your brain won’t need to work so hard, and you’ll be a little more socially connected. Research suggests that treating hearing loss can help decrease your risk of developing dementia when you get older. That’s not the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.

Other ways to reduce your dementia risk

Naturally, there are other things you can do to lower your risk of cognitive decline, too. Here are a few examples:

  • Be sure you get enough sleep each night. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep each night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • Eating more healthy food, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to take medication to bring it down.
  • Exercise is necessary for good overall health and that includes hearing health.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, and that includes your chance of experiencing cognitive decline (excessive alcohol drinking is also on this list).

Of course, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complicated. But the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your overall risk of cognitive decline. But it isn’t just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely trips to the grocery store.

Missing out on the important things in life is no fun. And a small amount of hearing loss management, possibly in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us right away!



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.