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 joy out of your next family gathering? Start talking about dementia.

The subject of dementia can be really frightening and most individuals aren’t going to go out of their way to talk about it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, causes you to lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory and causes a general loss of mental function. It’s not something anybody looks forward to.

For this reason, many people are seeking a way to prevent, or at least delay, the advancement of dementia. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have several fairly 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 does hearing loss raise chances of dementia?

What happens when your hearing loss is neglected?

You recognize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of concerns. You can just turn up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just turn on the captions.

On the other hand, maybe you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still easy to ignore. In either case, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a strong connection. That may have something to do with what occurs when you have 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 removed from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with people as much. It’s not good for your brain to isolate yourself this way. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most individuals who have this type of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t get 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. The current concept is, when this occurs, your brain draws power from your thought and memory centers. The thinking is that after a while this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Mental fatigue and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the outcome of your brain needing to work so hard.

So your hearing loss isn’t quite as harmless as you might have suspected.

One of the principal indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you just have slight hearing loss. Whispers might get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.

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

Now… What does that suggest?

Well, it’s essential not to forget that we’re dealing with risk here. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of dementia or even an early symptom of dementia. Rather, it simply means you have a greater chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But that can actually be good news.

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

  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are some measures you can take to protect your hearing. For example, you could avoid noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or use hearing protection when you’re around anything noisy (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Come see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you might have.
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be avoided by using hearing aids? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be improved by using hearing aids. This is the reason why: You’ll be able to participate in more discussions, your brain won’t have to work so hard, and you’ll be a bit more socially involved. Research indicates that treating hearing loss can help reduce your risk of developing dementia in the future. That’s not the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.

Other ways to decrease your dementia risk

Naturally, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of cognitive decline, too. Here are some examples:

  • Make sure you get plenty of sleep each night. There are studies that link fewer than four hours of sleep every night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • Exercise is needed for good general health and that includes hearing health.
  • A diet that keeps your blood pressure down and is good for your overall can go a long way. Sometimes, medication can help here, some individuals simply have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals could need medication sooner rather than later.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will raise your risk of cognitive decline as well as impacting your overall health (excess alcohol drinking is also on this list).

Of course, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. There are so many causes that make this disease so complicated. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help decrease your overall danger of developing cognitive decline down the line. You’ll be bettering your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more solitary trips to the store, no more confused conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Losing out on the important things in life stinks. And a little bit of hearing loss management, possibly in the form of a hearing aid, can help considerably.

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.