Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Connection?

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

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

The subject of dementia can be really frightening and most people aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory problems. No one wants to experience that.

So preventing or at least slowing dementia is a priority for many individuals. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have some fairly clear connections and correlations.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, actually)? Why does hearing loss increase the risk of dementia?

What occurs when your hearing loss goes untreated?

Perhaps you’ve detected your hearing loss already, but you’re not too worried about it. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your television won’t fix, right? Maybe you’ll just put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

But then again, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still subtle. Cognitive decline and hearing impairment are clearly linked either way. That may have something to do with what occurs when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. You could start to keep yourself secluded from others as a result of this. You can withdraw from friends, family, and loved ones. You won’t talk with others as much. It’s not good for your brain to isolate yourself like this. And naturally your social life. Additionally, many individuals who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they probably won’t connect their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will begin to work a lot harder. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t get nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stay with us). Because of this, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This is unbelievably taxing. The current theory is, when this occurs, your brain pulls power from your thinking and memory centers. The idea is that after a while this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also result in all kinds of other symptoms, like mental stress and exhaustion.

You may have thought that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it really is.

Hearing loss is one of the leading indicators of dementia

Perhaps your hearing loss is mild. Whispers may get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.

Meaning that even minor hearing loss is a pretty strong initial indication of a dementia risk.

Now… What does that mean?

Well, it’s essential to remember that we’re dealing with risk here. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of cognitive decline or even an early symptom of dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a higher chance of developing cognitive decline. But there could be an upside.

Because it means that effectively managing your hearing loss can help you reduce your chance of dementia. So how can hearing loss be managed? There are numerous ways:

  • Wearing a hearing aid can help minimize the affect of hearing loss. So, can dementia be prevented by using hearing aids? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be enhanced 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. Your risk of developing dementia in the future is minimized by managing hearing loss, research indicates. That isn’t the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain measures you can take to safeguard your hearing. You could, for instance, wear ear protection if you work in a noisy setting and steer clear of noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.
  • Come see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you might have.

Other ways to lower your dementia risk

Naturally, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of dementia, too. Here are a few examples:

  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is generally healthy can go a long way. In some cases, medication can help here, some people just have naturally higher blood pressure; those people could need medication sooner than later.
  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will raise your risk of dementia as well as impacting your general health (excess alcohol drinking can also go on this list).
  • Be sure you get enough sleep each night. There are studies that link fewer than four hours of sleep each night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • Get some exercise.

The connection between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being examined by scientists. It’s a complicated disease with an array of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help decrease your overall danger of developing dementia down the line. You’ll be bettering your life now, not just 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 a small amount of hearing loss management, perhaps in the form of a hearing aid, can help considerably.

So call us today for an appointment.



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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