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Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

Dementia and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to understand. It was discovered that even minor neglected hearing impairment increases your risk of developing dementia.

Experts believe that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help combat it?

What is dementia?

The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change 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 affects around five million people in the U.S. Exactly how hearing health effects the danger of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.

How hearing works

In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to sound waves.

Over time these little hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.

Research reveals that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t only an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decode them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the extra effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher chance of developing dementia.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that result in:

  • Memory impairment
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Overall diminished health
  • Irritability

And the more severe your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. Even minor hearing loss can double the danger of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more severe will bring the risk up by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher risk. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive issues are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why a hearing exam matters

Hearing loss affects the general health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. Most people don’t even know they have hearing loss because it progresses so slowly. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

Scheduling routine thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to correctly assess hearing health and monitor any decline as it happens.

Using hearing aids to reduce the risk

Scientists presently think that the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss has a lot to do with 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 boosts sound while filtering out background noise that impedes your hearing and relieves the strain on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.

Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive problems. Getting regular hearing tests to diagnose and treat hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.

Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re concerned that you may be coping with hearing loss.

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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.
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