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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 connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. It was discovered that even minor neglected hearing loss raises your risk of developing dementia.

Experts think that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So, how does loss of hearing put you at risk for dementia and how can a hearing test help fight it?

What is dementia?

The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a common form. Around five million people in the US are affected by this progressive kind of dementia. Exactly how hearing health effects the risk of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.

How hearing works

The ear components are very intricate and each one matters in relation to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain decodes.

Over time, many people develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these delicate hair cells. The outcome is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.

Research reveals that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t simply an irrelevant part of aging. The brain tries to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are jumbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.

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

  • Irritability
  • Impaired memory
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Weak overall health
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion

The likelihood of developing dementia can increase depending on the extent of your hearing loss, also. Even minor hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. Hearing loss that is more significant will bring the risk up by three times and extremely severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater danger. Research by Johns Hopkins University monitored 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 severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why a hearing assessment matters

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

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

Using hearing aids to decrease the risk

The present theory is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a big part in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. The stress on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.

Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive issues. The key to decreasing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you may be dealing 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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