Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Connection?

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

Want to take all the fun out of your next family get-together? Start talking about dementia.

The topic of dementia can be very scary and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to discuss it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, makes you lose a grip on reality, experience loss of memory, and causes a general loss of mental function. It’s not something anyone looks forward to.

This is why many people are seeking a way to prevent, or at least slow, the advancement of dementia. There are several 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, actually)? Why are the dangers of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What takes place when your hearing impairment is neglected?

You realize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it’s not 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 turn on the captions.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unnoticed so far. Perhaps the signs are still hard to detect. Either way, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a powerful correlation. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes more difficult to understand. You could begin to keep yourself isolated from others as a result of this. You might become distant from loved ones and friends. You’ll talk to others less. This sort of social isolation is, well, not good for your brain. Not to mention your social life. Further, most individuals who have this type of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will begin to work much harder. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stick with us). As a result, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This will really tire your brain out. The current concept is, when this happens, your brain draws power from your thinking and memory centers. It’s thought that this might hasten the onset of cognitive decline. Mental stress and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the outcome of your brain needing to work so hard.

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

One of the leading indicators of dementia is hearing loss

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

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

So… How should we interpret this?

We’re looking at risk in this circumstance which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. Rather, it simply means you have a greater chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But that might actually be good news.

Your risk of dementia is decreased by effectively managing your hearing loss. So how do you manage your hearing loss? There are several ways:

  • Come in and see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you may have.
  • The impact of hearing loss can be minimized by wearing hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids stop dementia? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can boost brain function. This is the reason why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have discussions. Research indicates that treating hearing loss can help minimize your risk of developing dementia when you get older. That’s not the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.
  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are certain measures you can take to safeguard your hearing. For example, you could stay away from noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re near anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).

Lowering your chance of dementia – other strategies

Naturally, there are other things you can do to lower your chance of dementia, too. Here are some examples:

  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is generally healthy can go a long way. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to use medication to lower it.
  • Getting enough sleep at night is imperative. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep each night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, including your chance of experiencing dementia (excessive alcohol drinking can also go on this list).

Of course, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complicated disease with a matrix of causes. But any way you can reduce your risk is good.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your general risk of cognitive decline. But it isn’t just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more confused conversations, no more misunderstandings.

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

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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