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Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

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 impairment raises your risk of developing dementia.

These two seemingly unconnected health disorders could have a pathological link. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the danger of hearing loss related dementia?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type of cognitive decline the majority of individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts about five million people in the U.S. Exactly how hearing health effects the risk of dementia is finally well grasped by scientists.

How hearing works

In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear mechanism matters. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they move toward the inner ear. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells vibrate in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical signals that the brain decodes.

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

Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t only an irrelevant part of aging. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more susceptible to developing dementia.

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

  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Overall diminished health
  • Impaired memory
  • Exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Reduction in alertness

And the more severe your hearing loss the higher your risk of cognitive decline. Even slight hearing loss can double the odds of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and very severe neglected hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher risk. The cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults were studied by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Cognitive and memory problems are 24 percent more likely in people who have hearing loss significant enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why a hearing test matters

Not everybody appreciates how even minor hearing loss affects their overall health. For most, the decline is gradual so they don’t always know there is an issue. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.

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

Using hearing aids to decrease the danger

The present theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a big part in cognitive decline and different types of dementia. Based on that one fact, you could conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The strain on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work so hard to comprehend the audio messages it’s receiving.

Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing 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 affect on brain health.

Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you might 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.