What’s the Link Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

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

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will most likely put a dark cloud over the entire event.

The topic of dementia can be really frightening and most people aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, causes you to lose a grip on reality, experience memory loss, and brings about an over-all loss of mental faculties. It’s not something anyone looks forward to.

For this reason, many individuals are seeking a way to counter, or at least slow, the advancement of dementia. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have some fairly clear connections and correlations.

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, actually)? Why does hearing loss increase chances of dementia?

What takes place when your hearing impairment is neglected?

Perhaps you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you aren’t too worried about it. You can just crank up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

But then again, maybe you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Perhaps the signs are still easy to dismiss. Either way, hearing loss and mental decline have a solid correlation. That might have something to do with what occurs when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. As a result, you may begin isolating yourself socially. You may become distant from loved ones and friends. You speak to others less. This type 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 sort of isolation won’t even realize that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working harder. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stay 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 power from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the present theory). The thinking is that after a while this contributes to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also result in all manner of other symptoms, like mental fatigue and exhaustion.

You may have thought that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it actually is.

Hearing loss is one of the leading indicators of dementia

Perhaps your hearing loss is mild. Whispers may 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 doesn’t have hearing loss.

Which means that even minor hearing loss is a pretty good initial sign of a dementia risk.

So… How should we understand this?

Well, it’s important to remember that we’re dealing with risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there’s no guarantee it will lead to dementia. Instead, it simply means you have a greater risk of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But that can actually be good news.

Your risk of cognitive decline is reduced by effectively dealing with your hearing loss. So how do you deal with your hearing loss? There are a number of ways:

  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are some steps you can take to protect your hearing. You could, for instance, use ear protection if you work in a noisy setting and steer clear of noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.
  • Come in and see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you may have.
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help minimize the impact of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be stopped by using hearing aids? That’s hard to say, but hearing aids can improve brain function. This is why: You’ll be able to participate in more conversations, your brain won’t have to work as hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially involved. Your chance of developing dementia later in life is reduced by treating hearing loss, research indicates. That’s not the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other methods

Of course, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of dementia, too. Here are some examples:

  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will raise your risk of dementia as well as impacting your overall health (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).
  • Getting sufficient sleep at night is imperative. Some research links a higher risk of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep per night.
  • Exercise is needed for good general health and that includes hearing health.
  • 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 may be necessary to use medication to bring it down.

Needless to say, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. There are so many causes that make this disease so complex. But any way you can decrease your risk is good.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help lower your general danger of developing dementia down the line. You’ll be improving your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Losing out on the important things in life is no fun. 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.