Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Connection?

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

Want to suck all the joy out of your next family gathering? Start to talk about dementia.

The topic of dementia can be really frightening and most people aren’t going to purposely talk about it. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, causes you to lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory, and causes a general loss of mental function. No one wants to go through that.

So preventing or at least slowing dementia is a priority for many people. There are several clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and neglected hearing loss.

You might be surprised by that. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the dangers of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What happens when your hearing loss is neglected?

You realize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it’s not at the top of your list of concerns. It’s nothing that turning up the volume on your television won’t fix, right? Maybe you’ll simply turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

On the other hand, maybe you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still hard to detect. Either way, hearing loss and mental decline have a strong connection. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. You could start to keep yourself secluded from others as a result of this. You might become distant from loved ones and friends. You’ll talk to others less. It’s not good for your brain to isolate yourself this way. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most people who have this sort of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will be working harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. Your brain will then need to get extra energy from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the current theory). The idea is that after a while this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also result in all kinds of other symptoms, like mental stress and tiredness.

So your hearing impairment isn’t quite as innocuous as you may have suspected.

One of the principal indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Perhaps your hearing loss is slight. Whispers might get lost, but you can hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, even with that, your chance of getting dementia is doubled.

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

Now… What does that suggest?

We’re looking at risk in this circumstance which is relevant to note. Hearing loss is not a guarantee of cognitive decline or even an early symptom of dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a higher risk of developing cognitive decline. But that could actually be good news.

Your risk of dementia is reduced by successfully dealing with your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be managed? There are numerous ways:

  • You can take some measures to safeguard your hearing from further harm if you detect your hearing loss soon enough. As an example, you could steer clear of noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re around anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • Using a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. So, can dementia be prevented by using hearing aids? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can improve brain function. Here’s why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have conversations. Research suggests that managing hearing loss can help reduce your risk of developing dementia in the future. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • Come in and see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you may have.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other methods

You can decrease your chance of cognitive decline by doing some other things too, of course. This might include:

  • Get some exercise.
  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep every night. Some studies link less than four hours of sleep every night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • Quit smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything bad, and that includes your chance of developing cognitive decline (this list also includes excessive alcohol use).
  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to lower it.

Of course, scientists are still researching the link between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. There are so many causes that make this disease so complicated. But any way you can decrease your risk is good.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of cognitive decline. But it’s not only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s right now. Imagine, no more missed discussions, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely visits to the grocery store.

Losing out on the important things in life stinks. And a small amount of hearing loss management, possibly in the form of a hearing aid, can help significantly.

So make sure to schedule an appointment with us today!



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.