What’s the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to understand. It was discovered that even mild neglected hearing loss increases your risk of developing cognitive decline.
Scientists believe that there might be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing exam help minimize the danger of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
The Mayo Clinic states that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and decrease socialization skills. People tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a prevalent form. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that affects about 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
The ear mechanisms are quite 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 shake in response to sound waves.
As time passes, many individuals develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. The brain tries to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the extra effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher chance of developing cognitive decline.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for lots of diseases that lead to:
- Reduction in alertness
- Overall diminished health
- Trouble learning new skills
- Impaired memory
And the more significant your hearing loss the greater your risk of dementia. Someone with just minor hearing loss has twice the risk. More advanced hearing loss means three times the danger and a person with extreme, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. They discovered that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to lead to memory and cognitive problems.
Why a hearing exam matters
Hearing loss affects the overall health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. Most individuals don’t even realize they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
We will be able to properly evaluate your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with routine hearing exams.
Reducing the risk with hearing aids
The current theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a major role in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. Based on that one fact, you might conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with 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. But scientists think hearing loss speeds up that decline. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing exams to diagnose and manage gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
If you’re worried that you might be suffering from hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing evaluation.