Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Link?

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

Want to take all the fun out of your next family gathering? Start to talk about dementia.

Dementia is not a subject most people are actively seeking to discuss, mainly because it’s pretty scary. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory loss. It’s not something anybody looks forward to.

This is why many individuals are seeking a way to prevent, or at least delay, the development of dementia. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

You may be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, it turns out)? Why are the risks of dementia increased with hearing loss?

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

Maybe you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you aren’t that concerned about it. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your tv won’t fix, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

Or maybe your hearing loss has gone unnoticed so far. Maybe the signs are still easy to disregard. Either way, hearing loss and mental decline have a solid correlation. That may have something to do with what happens when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You can draw away from family, friends, and loved ones. You’ll talk to others less. It’s bad for your brain to separate yourself like this. And naturally your social life. Further, most people who have this kind of isolation won’t even recognize that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. Because of this, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This is extremely taxing. The current theory is, when this happens, your brain draws power from your thought and memory centers. It’s thought that this could speed up the onset of cognitive decline. Mental stress and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the outcome of your brain needing to work so hard.

You may have thought that your hearing loss was more harmless than it actually is.

Hearing loss is one of the leading indicators of dementia

Let’s say you just have slight hearing loss. Like, you’re unable to hear whispers, but everything else is just fine. Well, even with that, your risk of developing dementia is doubled.

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

So… How should we understand this?

We’re looking at risk in this situation which is important to note. Hearing loss isn’t a guarantee of dementia or even an early symptom of dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have an increased chance of developing cognitive decline. But there may be an upside.

Because it means that effectively dealing with your hearing loss can help you lower your risk of cognitive decline. So how do you deal with your hearing loss? There are numerous ways:

  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are certain measures you can take to protect your hearing. For example, you could steer clear of noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re near anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • The affect of hearing loss can be minimized by using hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids stop dementia? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can enhance brain function. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have discussions. Research implies that treating hearing loss can help minimize your danger of developing dementia when you get older. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • Schedule an appointment with us to diagnose your existing hearing loss.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other methods

Of course, there are other things you can do to reduce your chance of dementia, too. Here are some examples:

  • Exercise is needed for good overall health and that includes hearing health.
  • Eating a healthy diet, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to use medication to lower it.
  • Getting sufficient sleep at night is essential. Some studies link fewer than four hours of sleep per night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will increase your chance of dementia and will impact your general health (this list also includes excessive alcohol use).

Needless to say, scientists are still studying the link between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. There are so many causes that make this disease so complex. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your general risk of dementia. But it’s not just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more muffled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely visits to the grocery store.

Losing out on the important things in life is no fun. And a little bit of hearing loss management, perhaps in the form of a hearing aid, can help considerably.

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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