Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Link?

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

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

The topic of dementia can be very frightening and most individuals aren’t going to purposely discuss it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, makes you lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory, and brings about an over-all loss of mental function. Nobody wants to experience that.

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

You might be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, actually)? Why are the risks of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What takes place when your hearing impairment goes untreated?

Maybe you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you’re not too concerned about it. You can simply turn up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

On the other hand, maybe you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Perhaps the signs are still easy to disregard. Cognitive decline and hearing loss are firmly connected either way. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. Consequently, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You may become removed from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with others as often. This type of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. Not to mention your social life. Further, most individuals who have this sort of isolation won’t even recognize that hearing loss is the cause.
  • 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 sort of obvious, yes, but stick with us). This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This is extremely taxing. Your brain will then need to get additional energy from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the present concept). It’s thought that this might speed up the development of cognitive decline. Your brain working so hard can also cause all kinds of other symptoms, like mental fatigue and exhaustion.

So your hearing loss isn’t quite as innocuous as you might have thought.

One of the leading signs of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you have only mild hearing impairment. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else is just fine. Well, even with that, your risk of getting dementia is doubled.

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

So… How should we understand this?

We’re looking at risk in this situation which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will lead to dementia. Rather, it simply means you have a greater chance of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But there might be an upside.

Because it means that effectively dealing with your hearing loss can help you reduce your chance of cognitive decline. So how can you deal with your hearing loss? Here are several ways:

  • Come in and see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you might have.
  • You can take a few measures to safeguard your hearing from further damage if you catch your hearing loss early enough. You could, for instance, use hearing protection if you work in a noisy setting and steer clear of noisy events like concerts or sporting events.
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help reduce the impact of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids stop dementia? That’s hard to say, but hearing aids can enhance brain function. This is why: You’ll be able to participate in more discussions, your brain won’t need to work as hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially connected. Your chance of developing dementia in the future is reduced by managing hearing loss, research implies. That isn’t the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other methods

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

  • Get some exercise.
  • Getting enough sleep at night is crucial. Some research links an increased chance of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep each night.
  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is good for your overall can go a long way. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to lower it.
  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will increase your risk of cognitive decline as well as impacting your overall health (excessive alcohol use is also on this list).

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being examined by scientists. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complex. But any way you can reduce your risk is good.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, hearing better will help decrease your overall risk of developing cognitive decline in the future. But it’s not just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more lost 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 really helpful.

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.