What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to comprehend. It was discovered that even minor neglected hearing impairment raises your risk of developing cognitive decline.
Researchers think that there may be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing exam help fight it?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. People tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a common form. About five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive form of dementia. Precisely how hearing health impacts the danger of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.
How hearing works
The ear components are extremely intricate and each one matters when it comes to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to send electrical impulses that the brain decodes.
Over time these tiny hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud noise. The outcome is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to comprehend sound.
Research reveals that this slow loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.
Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:
- Overall diminished health
- Impaired memory
- Inability to master new tasks
- Reduction in alertness
And the more significant your hearing loss the higher your risk of dementia. Someone with just minor hearing loss has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will bring the risk up by three times and very severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater danger. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Cognitive and memory problems 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 impacts the general health and that would most likely surprise many people. Most people don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adjusts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
We will be able to properly assess your hearing health and monitor any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.
Using hearing aids to reduce the risk
Scientists currently think that the relationship between cognitive decline and hearing loss is largely based on the brain stress that hearing loss produces. Based on that one fact, you could conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. The stress on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss quickens that decline. 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.
Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss.