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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 starting to comprehend. Your risk of getting dementia is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.

Scientists believe that there may be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So how can a hearing test help decrease the danger of hearing loss related dementia?

Dementia, what is it?

Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a common form of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. Around five million people in the US are affected by this progressive kind of dementia. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health increases the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear mechanisms are very complex and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Electrical signals are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to sound waves.

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

Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the impulses are unclear and jumbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. That effort puts strain on the ear, making the individual struggling to hear more susceptible to developing cognitive decline.

Here are several disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:

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

The odds of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the extent of your hearing loss, too. Even minor hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. 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 higher risk. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive issues are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why a hearing test matters

Hearing loss affects the overall health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. For most people, the decline is slow so they don’t always realize there is an issue. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

Scheduling regular comprehensive exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly evaluate hearing health and monitor any decline as it occurs.

Using hearing aids to decrease the danger

Scientists currently 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 capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. The strain on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to understand the sounds it’s getting.

People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss accelerates that decline. Having routine hearing tests to detect and manage hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to decreasing that risk.

Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you might 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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