What’s the Connection Between Hearing Loss and Dementia?

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.

Dementia is not a subject most individuals are intentionally seeking to talk about, mainly because it’s rather scary. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive disease, makes you lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory, and brings about a general loss of mental function. No one wants to experience that.

This is why many people are looking for a way to counter, or at least slow, the advancement of dementia. It turns out, untreated hearing loss and dementia have some pretty clear connections and correlations.

You may be surprised by that. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (a lot, it turns out)? Why does hearing loss raise the risk of dementia?

What occurs when your hearing impairment goes untreated?

You recognize that you’re beginning to lose your hearing, but it isn’t at the top of your list of worries. You can simply turn up the volume, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just put on the captions.

But then again, perhaps you haven’t noticed your hearing loss yet. Maybe the signs are still easy to dismiss. Cognitive decline and hearing impairment are firmly connected either way. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. As a result, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You might become removed from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with others as much. This sort of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Additionally, many individuals who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they likely won’t connect their solitude to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. Your ears will collect less audio information when you have untreated hearing loss. As a result, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This will really tire your brain out. Your brain will then need to get additional energy from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the current theory). The thinking is that after a while this contributes to dementia (or, at least, helps it along). Your brain working so hard can also result in all manner of other symptoms, such as mental stress and tiredness.

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

One of the leading signs of dementia is hearing loss

Maybe your hearing loss is slight. Whispers might get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, turns out you’re still two times as likely to develop dementia as somebody who does not have hearing loss.

Which means that even mild hearing loss is a fairly good preliminary indication of a risk of dementia.

Now… What does that suggest?

Well, it’s essential to remember that we’re dealing with risk here. 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 an increased chance of developing cognitive decline. But that might actually be good news.

Your risk of dementia is decreased by effectively dealing with your hearing loss. So how can you manage your hearing loss? Here are a few ways:

  • Make an appointment with us to identify your current hearing loss.
  • The affect of hearing loss can be minimized by wearing hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids prevent dementia? That’s difficult 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. Your chance of developing dementia in the future is decreased by managing hearing loss, research suggests. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • You can take some measures to safeguard your hearing from further damage if you detect your hearing loss soon enough. You could, for instance, use ear protection if you work in a loud environment and steer clear of noisy events like concerts or sporting events.

Other ways to lower your dementia risk

Of course, there are other things you can do to decrease your chance of dementia, too. This could include:

  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep each night. Some studies have linked a higher risk of dementia to getting less than four hours of sleep each night.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Eating more healthy food, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For individuals who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to lower it.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will increase your risk of cognitive decline and will impact your overall health (excessive alcohol drinking is also on this list).

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being studied by scientists. There are a multitude of causes that make this disease so complex. But the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, hearing better will help decrease your overall risk of developing cognitive decline in the future. You’ll be improving your life now, not only in the future. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more confused conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Missing out on the important things in life is no fun. And a little bit of hearing loss management, perhaps 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.