Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to comprehend. It was discovered that even mild neglected hearing impairment increases your risk of developing dementia.
Scientists believe that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So how can a hearing exam help decrease the risk 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. Individuals tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a prevalent form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts around five million people in the U.S. Precisely how hearing health impacts the danger of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the complex ear mechanism matters. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they travel toward the inner ear. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to send electrical signals that the brain decodes.
Over time these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud sound. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the reduction of electrical signals to the brain.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes considered a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.
Here are a few disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Memory impairment
- Reduction in alertness
- Inability to master new tasks
- Overall diminished health
The odds of developing dementia can increase based on the degree of your hearing loss, also. A person with only mild impairment has twice the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk 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 monitored 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 severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.
Why a hearing test matters
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would probably surprise many people. For most, the decline is gradual so they don’t always recognize there is a problem. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.
Scheduling regular thorough assessments gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly assess hearing health and monitor any decline as it takes place.
Using hearing aids to decrease the risk
Scientists presently believe that the relationship between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss produces. So hearing aids should be able to reduce the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies 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 come through without as much effort.
There is no rule that says people who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive issues. Having regular hearing tests to detect and deal with hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to reducing that risk.
If you’re concerned that you may be dealing with hearing loss, call us today to schedule your hearing evaluation.