Regular Hearing Exams Could Decrease Your Risk of Getting Dementia

Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to comprehend. Your risk of getting cognitive decline is increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.

These two seemingly unrelated health disorders could have a pathological connection. So how can a hearing test help minimize the risk of hearing loss related dementia?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. People tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a prevalent form. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive form of dementia. Exactly how hearing health effects the danger of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.

How hearing works

In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. Waves of sound go inside the ear canal and are boosted as they move toward the inner ear. Electrical signals are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to waves of sound.

Over the years these tiny hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud noise. The outcome is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to understand sound.

This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.

Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:

  • Irritability
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Weak overall health
  • Memory impairment
  • Depression
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Exhaustion

And the more significant your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. Someone with only minor impairment has double the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with extreme, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing dementia. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.

Why is a hearing exam worthwhile?

Not everybody understands how even minor hearing loss affects their overall health. For most people, the decline is progressive so they don’t always know there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

Scheduling regular thorough assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly evaluate hearing health and track any decline as it takes place.

Minimizing the risk with hearing aids

The current hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a significant part in cognitive decline and different forms of dementia. 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 interferes with your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.

People who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive problems. The key to decreasing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.

Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re concerned 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.