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Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the connection? Medical science has found a connection between brain health and hearing loss. It was found that even minor untreated hearing impairment raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.

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

Dementia, what is it?

The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent form of cognitive decline the majority of people think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts around five million people in the U.S. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how ear health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

When it comes to good hearing, every part of the intricate ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical impulses that the brain decodes.

Over time these tiny hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud noise. Comprehension of sound becomes much harder due to the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.

Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the additional effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher chance of developing dementia.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for lots of diseases that lead to:

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

The likelihood of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the severity of your hearing loss, too. Even minor hearing loss can double the odds of dementia. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and extremely severe neglected 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 individuals who have hearing loss significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why is a hearing assessment important?

Not everyone realizes how even minor hearing loss impacts their general health. For most people, the decline is gradual so they don’t always realize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less obvious.

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

Decreasing the risk with hearing aids

The current theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big part in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. 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 relieves the stress on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to comprehend the sounds it’s receiving.

There’s no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss accelerates that decline. Having regular hearing tests to detect and manage hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.

Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing exam 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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