Louisville Family Audiology - Louisville, KY

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 found that even mild untreated hearing impairment increases your risk of developing dementia.

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

Dementia, what is it?

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

How hearing works

In terms of good hearing, every part of the complex ear component matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that shake in response to sound waves.

Over the years these tiny hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud sound. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.

Research indicates that this gradual loss of hearing isn’t just an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decode them anyway. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more susceptible to developing cognitive decline.

Here are several disease risk factors that have hearing loss in common:

  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Irritability
  • Overall diminished health
  • Exhaustion
  • Memory impairment
  • Depression
  • Reduction in alertness

The risk of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the degree of your hearing loss, too. Somebody with only mild hearing loss has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will bring the risk up by three times and extremely severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times greater risk. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were studied 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 research.

Why is a hearing exam important?

Not everybody realizes how even minor hearing loss affects their overall health. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it progresses so gradually. The human brain is good at adapting as hearing declines, so it is less noticeable.

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

Decreasing the danger with hearing aids

The current hypothesis is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a major part in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and eases the strain on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will get through without as much effort.

There’s no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, raising the chances of cognitive issues. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.

If you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing examination.

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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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