What’s the Connection Between Hearing Loss 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 get-together? Start to talk about dementia.

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

So stopping or at least slowing dementia is important for many people. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have some fairly clear connections and correlations.

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, it turns out)? Why are the dangers of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

What happens when your hearing loss goes untreated?

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

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unnoticed so far. Perhaps the signs are still hard to detect. Mental decline and hearing loss are strongly connected either way. That might have something to do with what happens when you have untreated hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. Consequently, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You may become removed from loved ones and friends. You’ll talk to others less. This type of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. Not to mention your social life. Additionally, many people who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize 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 stick with us). Because of this, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. The present concept is, when this takes place, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. The idea is that after a while this contributes to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also cause all kinds of other symptoms, like mental fatigue and exhaustion.

So your hearing impairment is not quite as innocuous as you might have believed.

One of the leading indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you have only slight hearing impairment. Whispers may get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to develop dementia as someone who does not have hearing loss.

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

Now… What does that mean?

Well, it’s important not to forget that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of dementia or even an early symptom of dementia. Rather, it just means you have a greater chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But that could actually be good news.

Because it means that effectively managing your hearing loss can help you reduce your risk of dementia. So how can hearing loss be addressed? Here are a few ways:

  • The impact of hearing loss can be decreased by wearing hearing aids. So, can dementia be avoided by wearing hearing aids? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can improve brain function. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be capable of participating in more conversations, your brain won’t have to work so hard, and you’ll be a little more socially connected. Research indicates that managing hearing loss can help minimize your risk of developing dementia when you get older. That’s not the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.
  • Set up an appointment with us to identify your present hearing loss.
  • You can take some measures to protect your hearing from further damage if you detect your hearing loss soon enough. As an example, you could stay away from noisy events (like concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re around anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).

Lowering your risk of dementia – other methods

You can decrease your risk of cognitive decline by doing some other things as well, of course. This might include:

  • Quit smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, and that includes your chance of developing cognitive decline (excessive alcohol use can also go on this list).
  • Eating a healthy diet, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to take medication to lower it.
  • Be sure you get enough sleep each night. Some research links a higher chance of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep each night.
  • Exercise is needed for good general health and that includes hearing health.

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

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, hearing better will help decrease your overall danger of developing cognitive decline down the line. You’ll be bettering your life now, not only in the future. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely visits to the grocery store.

Missing 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 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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