What’s the Link Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

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

Want to suck all the joy out of your next family gathering? Start talking about dementia.

The topic of dementia can be really frightening and most people aren’t going to purposely discuss it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, makes you lose touch with reality, experience memory loss, and causes a general loss of mental faculties. It isn’t something anybody looks forward to.

So stopping or at least delaying dementia is a priority for many individuals. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and untreated hearing loss.

You might be surprised by that. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the risks of dementia increased with hearing loss?

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

You recognize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of worries. You can just turn up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

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

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. You could begin to keep yourself isolated from others because of this. You can withdraw from family, friends, and loved ones. You speak to others less. This kind of social separation is, well, not good for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most individuals who have this kind of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working harder. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t get nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stick with us). Because of this, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This is incredibly taxing. Your brain will then need to get additional energy from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the present theory). The idea is that after a while this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental fatigue and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain having to work so hard.

You may have suspected that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.

Hearing loss is one of the leading signs of dementia

Let’s say you just have slight hearing loss. Whispers might get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to develop dementia as somebody who does not have hearing loss.

Which means that even minor hearing loss is a pretty good preliminary indication of a dementia risk.

Now… What does that mean?

We’re considering risk in this situation which is important to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have an increased chance of developing cognitive decline. But that might actually be good news.

Because it means that effectively managing your hearing loss can help you decrease your chance of dementia. So how can hearing loss be controlled? There are a number of ways:

  • The impact of hearing loss can be reduced by using hearing aids. So, can cognitive decline be prevented by wearing hearing aids? That’s hard to say, but hearing aids can boost brain function. This is why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to carry on discussions. Your chance of developing dementia in the future is minimized by managing hearing loss, research implies. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are certain steps you can take to protect 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.
  • Set up an appointment with us to diagnose your current hearing loss.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other strategies

You can decrease your chance of cognitive decline by doing some other things as well, of course. Here are some examples:

  • Exercise is necessary for good general health and that includes hearing health.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will raise your chance of cognitive decline as well as impacting your overall health (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).
  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep each night. There are studies that link less than four hours of sleep each night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is generally healthy can go a long way. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to lower it.

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

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, hearing better will help reduce your overall risk of developing dementia in the future. You’ll be improving your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more muffled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely visits to the grocery store.

It’s no fun missing out on life’s important moments. And taking steps to control your hearing loss, maybe by using hearing aids, can be a big help.

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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