Regular Hearing Tests Could Decrease Your Danger of Developing 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 link which medical science is starting to comprehend. Your risk of developing cognitive decline is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.

These two seemingly unconnected health conditions might have a pathological link. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the danger of hearing loss related dementia?

Dementia, what is it?

The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a group 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 impacts around five million people in the U.S. These days, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health alters the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

When it comes to good hearing, every part of the intricate ear mechanism matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the maze of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit 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 result is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it harder 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. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the extra effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.

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

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

And the more significant your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. A person with only mild impairment has twice the risk. 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 greater risk. A study conducted 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 extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why is a hearing exam worthwhile?

Not everyone appreciates how even minor hearing loss affects their general health. For most people, the decline is progressive so they don’t always realize there is a problem. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is not so noticeable.

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

Minimizing the danger with hearing aids

Scientists currently believe that the connection between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss produces. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.

People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive problems. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.

Contact us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you might 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.