What’s the Connection Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will most likely put a dark cloud above the entire event.

Dementia isn’t a topic most individuals are actively seeking to talk about, mostly because it’s rather scary. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, makes you lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory, and brings about an over-all loss of mental faculties. It isn’t something anyone looks forward to.

This is why many individuals are seeking a way to counter, or at least slow, the advancement of dementia. There are several clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the risks of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the consequences?

You recognize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it isn’t at the top of your list of worries. You can just crank up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just put on the captions.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Perhaps the signs are still easy to disregard. Cognitive decline and hearing impairment are clearly linked either way. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You can draw away from friends, family, and loved ones. You won’t talk with people as much. It’s not good for your brain to isolate yourself this way. It’s not good for your social life either. What’s more, many individuals who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they probably won’t attribute their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stick with us). As a result, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This is unbelievably taxing. Your brain will then need to get additional power from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the present concept). The idea is that over time this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Mental stress and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the outcome of your brain needing to work so hard.

So your hearing impairment is not quite as innocuous as you may have suspected.

Hearing loss is one of the leading signs of dementia

Let’s say you have only slight hearing loss. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else sounds just fine. Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to develop dementia as someone who doesn’t have hearing loss.

So one of the preliminary signs of dementia can be even minor hearing loss.

Now… What does that suggest?

We’re considering risk in this situation which is important to note. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of dementia or even an early symptom of dementia. Instead, it just means you have a greater risk of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But there could be an upside.

Because it means that successfully managing your hearing loss can help you lower your risk of cognitive decline. So how do you manage your hearing loss? Here are several ways:

  • You can take a few steps to protect your hearing from further harm if you catch your hearing loss early enough. As an example, you could avoid noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Come see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you might have.
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids stop cognitive decline? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we recognize that brain function can be improved by using hearing aids. This is the reason why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have conversations. Research implies that managing hearing loss can help minimize your danger of developing dementia in the future. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other strategies

Naturally, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of cognitive decline, too. This might include:

  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will increase your chance of cognitive decline and will impact your overall health (excessive alcohol drinking can also go on this list).
  • Exercise is necessary for good overall health and that includes hearing health.
  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep each night. There are studies that link fewer than four hours of sleep each night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is generally healthy can go a long way. Sometimes, medication can help here, some individuals just have naturally higher blood pressure; those people may need medication sooner than later.

Needless to say, scientists are still researching the connection between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complicated disease with a matrix of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help decrease your general danger of developing cognitive decline in the future. You’ll be bettering your life now, not only in the future. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more confused conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Missing out on the important things in life stinks. And taking steps to deal with your hearing loss, perhaps by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us right away!



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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