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Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Brain health and hearing loss have a connection which medical science is starting to understand. It was discovered that even mild neglected hearing impairment increases your risk of developing dementia.

Researchers believe that there may be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So how can a hearing exam help reduce the risk of hearing loss related dementia?

Dementia, what is it?

The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a group of symptoms that alter memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. People tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive kind of dementia. Precisely how hearing health effects the risk of dementia is finally well understood by scientists.

How hearing works

In terms of good hearing, every part of the intricate ear mechanism matters. As waves of sound vibration travel towards the inner ear, they get amplified. Inside the maze of the inner ear, tiny hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to send electrical impulses that the brain decodes.

Over the years these tiny hairs can become permanently damaged from exposure to loud sound. Comprehension of sound becomes a lot more difficult due to the reduction of electrical impulses to the brain.

This progressive hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and insignificant part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not the case. The brain tries to decode any messages sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. That effort puts stress on the organ, making the individual struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing cognitive decline.

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

  • Trouble learning new skills
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Irritability
  • Overall diminished health
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Impaired memory

And the more significant your hearing loss the greater your risk of cognitive decline. Even mild hearing loss can double the danger of cognitive decline. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with extreme, untreated loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing cognitive decline. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They revealed that hearing loss advanced enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.

Why a hearing test matters

Hearing loss affects the general health and that would most likely surprise many people. Most individuals don’t even recognize they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.

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

Using hearing aids to reduce the danger

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

Individuals who have normal hearing can still possibly develop dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the risk of cognitive issues. Having regular hearing exams to detect and deal with hearing loss before it gets too extreme is key to decreasing that risk.

Contact us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test if you’re worried that you might be coping 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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