Hearing Services of Nashville

Wooden brain puzzle representing mental decline due to hearing loss.

What’s the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is starting to understand. Your risk of developing cognitive decline is increased with even minor hearing loss, as it turns out.

Experts think that there may be a pathological connection between these two seemingly unrelated health issues. So how can a hearing test help minimize the danger of hearing loss related dementia?

Dementia, what is it?

The Mayo Clinic says that dementia is a cluster of symptoms that change memory, alter the ability to think clearly, and decrease socialization skills. Alzheimer’s is a common type of cognitive decline most people think of when they hear the word dementia. About five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive kind of dementia. Today, medical science has a complete understanding of how hearing health alters the danger of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

How hearing works

The ear components are extremely intricate and each one is important when it comes to good hearing. Waves of sound go into the ear canal and are amplified as they travel toward the inner ear. Electrical signals are sent to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to waves of sound.

As time passes, many individuals develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these fragile hair cells. The result is a decrease in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it harder to understand sound.

Research indicates that this slow loss of hearing isn’t only an irrelevant part of aging. The brain attempts to decode any signals sent by the ear even if they are garbled or unclear. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the extra effort to hear and this can eventually lead to a higher risk of developing cognitive decline.

Loss of hearing is a risk factor for lots of diseases that result in:

  • Memory impairment
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Reduction in alertness
  • Depression
  • Weak overall health
  • Inability to master new tasks

The risk of developing dementia can increase depending on the degree of your hearing loss, also. Even minor hearing loss can double the danger of dementia. More significant hearing loss means three times the danger and a person with extreme, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the odds of developing cognitive decline. The cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults were observed by Johns Hopkins University over six years. Memory and cognitive problems are 24 percent more likely in individuals who have hearing loss extreme enough to disrupt conversation, according to this study.

Why a hearing assessment matters

Not everyone appreciates how even minor hearing loss affects their overall health. For most, the decline is gradual so they don’t always realize there is an issue. The human brain is good at adjusting as hearing declines, so it is not so noticeable.

We will be able to effectively assess your hearing health and track any changes as they happen with routine hearing exams.

Minimizing the risk with hearing aids

The present hypothesis is that stress on the brain from hearing loss plays a major part in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. Based on that one fact, you could conclude that hearing aids decrease that risk. A hearing assistance device boosts sound while filtering out background noise that interferes with your hearing and eases the stress on your brain. The sounds that you’re hearing will come through without as much effort.

There’s no rule that says individuals with normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss quickens the decline in the brain, raising the risk of cognitive issues. Getting routine hearing exams to identify and manage hearing loss before it gets too serious is key to reducing that risk.

Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing exam if you’re worried that you might be coping with hearing loss.

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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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