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Center For Better Hearing - Glens Falls, NY

Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the link between hearing loss and dementia? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is beginning to understand. Your risk of developing dementia is higher with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.

These two seemingly unconnected health conditions could have a pathological connection. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the risk of hearing loss related dementia?

What is dementia?

The Mayo Clinic reveals that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think concisely, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a prevalent type of cognitive decline most individuals think of when they hear the word dementia. Alzheimer’s means progressive dementia that impacts around five million people in the U.S. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health alters the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear mechanisms are very complex and each one matters in relation to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Electrical impulses are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to sound waves.

As time passes, many people develop a gradual decline in their ability to hear due to years of trauma to these fragile hair cells. Comprehension of sound becomes much more difficult because of the decrease of electrical impulses to the brain.

This gradual hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research shows that’s not the case. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will attempt to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain fatigued from the additional effort to hear and this can ultimately result in a higher risk of developing cognitive decline.

Here are a few disease risk factors with hearing loss in common:

  • Memory impairment
  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Exhaustion
  • Overall diminished health
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Reduction in alertness

The likelihood of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the degree of your hearing loss, also. Somebody with just mild impairment has double the risk. Hearing loss that is more significant will raise the risk by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher risk. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University monitored the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss severe enough to disrupt conversation, according to this research.

Why a hearing assessment matters

Hearing loss affects the general health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it develops so slowly. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it’s not so obvious.

We will be able to effectively evaluate your hearing health and track any changes as they occur with regular hearing exams.

Reducing the risk with hearing aids

Scientists presently think that the connection between dementia and hearing loss is largely based on the brain strain that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you could conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. The stress on your brain will be decreased by using a hearing aid to filter out unwanted background noise while enhancing sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to understand the sounds it’s getting.

There is no rule that says people with normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science believes is that hearing loss accelerates the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive problems. Having routine hearing tests to detect and deal with hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss.

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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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