Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Connection?

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

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

Dementia isn’t a subject most people are actively seeking to talk about, mainly because it’s rather scary. A degenerative mental disease in which you slowly (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory loss. Nobody wants to go through that.

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

That might seem a bit… surprising to you. What does your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why does hearing loss raise chances of dementia?

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. You can simply turn up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

But then again, perhaps you haven’t detected your hearing loss yet. Perhaps the signs are still hard to detect. Cognitive decline and hearing impairment are firmly connected either way. That might have something to do with what happens when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes harder to understand. As a result, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You may become distant from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with others as often. It’s bad for your brain to separate yourself this way. And naturally your social life. Further, most individuals who have this sort of isolation won’t even realize that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will start to work much harder. Your ears will get less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This will really exhaust your brain. The current theory is, when this happens, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. The idea is that after a while this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental stress and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the outcome of your brain needing to work so hard.

You may have thought that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.

One of the leading indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Maybe your hearing loss is mild. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else sounds normal. Well, even with that, your chance of getting dementia is doubled.

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

Now… What does that mean?

Well, it’s important not to forget that we’re dealing with risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have an increased risk of developing cognitive decline. But there may be an upside.

Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by effectively managing your hearing loss. So how do you manage your hearing loss? Here are a few ways:

  • The affect of hearing loss can be minimized by using hearing aids. So, can cognitive decline be stopped by wearing hearing aids? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be improved by wearing hearing aids. This is why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t have to work so hard to have conversations. Research suggests that treating hearing loss can help decrease your danger of developing dementia in the future. That’s not the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing regardless.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are some measures you can take to safeguard your hearing. You could, for instance, use hearing protection if you work in a noisy environment and steer clear of noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.
  • Come see us so we can help you determine any hearing loss you may have.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other methods

Of course, there are other things you can do to lower your chance of cognitive decline, too. Here are a few examples:

  • Get some exercise.
  • A diet that helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure and is good for your overall well being can go a long way. In some cases, medication can help here, some people just have naturally higher blood pressure; those people could need medication sooner rather than later.
  • Be sure you get enough sleep every night. Some studies link fewer than four hours of sleep every night to a higher risk of dementia.
  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will increase your risk of cognitive decline as well as impacting your general health (this list also includes excessive alcohol use).

Of course, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complex disease with a matrix of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, hearing better will help reduce your overall danger of developing dementia down the line. But it isn’t only your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more muffled misunderstandings, no more quiet and lonely visits to the grocery store.

Missing 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 right away!



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.