What’s the Connection Between Hearing Loss and Dementia?

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

Want to take all the fun out of your next family gathering? Start talking about dementia.

Dementia isn’t a subject most individuals are actively seeking to discuss, mainly because it’s rather scary. A degenerative mental disease in which you gradually (or, more terrifyingly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory problems. Nobody wants to experience that.

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

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the risks of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What takes place 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 worries. You can simply crank up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just turn on the captions.

But then again, maybe you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Perhaps the signs are still hard to detect. Cognitive decline and hearing loss are clearly linked either way. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. You could begin to keep yourself isolated from others because of this. You might become distant from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with others as much. It’s bad for your brain to separate yourself like this. It’s not good for your social life either. Additionally, many individuals who cope with hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even realize it’s happening, and they likely won’t connect their isolation to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working harder. When you have neglected hearing loss, your ears don’t get nearly as much audio information (this is sort of obvious, yes, but stick with us). Because of this, your brain tries to fill in the gaps. This is unbelievably taxing. The present theory is, when this occurs, your brain pulls power from your thinking and memory centers. The idea is that after a while this contributes to dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Your brain working so hard can also cause all kinds of other symptoms, such as mental fatigue and exhaustion.

You might have thought that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it really is.

Hearing loss is one of the primary signs of dementia

Perhaps your hearing loss is slight. Whispers might get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, even with that, your chance of getting dementia is doubled.

Meaning that even mild hearing loss is a fairly strong preliminary sign of a dementia risk.

So… How should we interpret this?

We’re considering risk in this circumstance which is important to note. Hearing loss isn’t a guarantee of cognitive decline 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 there may be an upside.

Because it means that effectively dealing with your hearing loss can help you decrease your risk of dementia. So how can hearing loss be addressed? There are numerous ways:

  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are certain measures you can take to protect your hearing. You could, for instance, use ear protection if you work in a noisy setting and avoid noisy events like concerts or sporting events.
  • Make an appointment with us to diagnose your current hearing loss.
  • Wearing a hearing aid can help decrease the impact of hearing loss. So, can cognitive decline be prevented by using hearing aids? That’s tough to say, but hearing aids can enhance brain function. This is why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t need to work so hard to carry on conversations. Research suggests that treating hearing loss can help reduce your danger of developing dementia in the future. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.

Other ways to decrease your dementia risk

You can minimize your chance of cognitive decline by doing some other things too, of course. Here are a few examples:

  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will raise your risk of cognitive decline as well as impacting your overall health (excess alcohol drinking is also on this list).
  • Get some exercise.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep each night. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep every night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • Eating more healthy food, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. In some cases, medication can help here, some people just have naturally higher blood pressure; those people could need medication sooner than later.

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being studied by scientists. It’s a complicated disease with an array of causes. 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 improving your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely visits to the grocery store.

It’s no fun losing out on life’s important moments. And a little bit of hearing loss management, maybe 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.

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    Dr. Laura Padham, Audiologist

    Ocean Gate, NJ

    143 W Barnegat Avenue
    Ocean Gate, NJ 08740

    Mobile Services in:Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, Essex, Hudson, Bergen, Passaic, Atlantic, Mercer, and Burlington Counties.

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