Hearing Impairment and Dementia: What’s the Link?

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 above the entire event.

Dementia is not a topic most people are intentionally seeking to talk about, mostly because it’s rather frightening. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, makes you lose a grip on reality, experience loss of memory, and causes a general loss of mental function. No one wants to go through that.

For this reason, many people are looking for a way to counter, or at least slow, the development of dementia. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have some pretty clear connections and correlations.

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

When you disregard hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

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

On the other hand, perhaps you haven’t noticed your hearing loss yet. Perhaps the signs are still easy to disregard. In either case, hearing loss and mental decline have a solid connection. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult 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 people as much. This type 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 probably won’t attribute their isolation to their hearing.
  • Your brain will begin to work much harder. Your ears will collect less audio information when you’re dealing with untreated hearing loss. This will leave your brain filling in the missing gaps. This will really exhaust your brain. The current theory is, when this takes place, your brain pulls power from your thought and memory centers. It’s thought that this might quicken the development of dementia. Your brain working so hard can also cause all kinds of other symptoms, such as mental fatigue and exhaustion.

You might have suspected 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. Whispers may get lost, but you can hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, even with that, your risk of developing dementia is doubled.

Meaning that even mild hearing loss is a pretty strong preliminary indication of a risk of dementia.

Now… What does that mean?

We’re considering risk in this circumstance which is relevant to note. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there’s no guarantee it will lead to dementia. Rather, it just means you have a higher chance of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline later in life. But that could actually be good news.

Your risk of dementia is decreased by successfully managing your hearing loss. So how do you deal with your hearing loss? There are several ways:

  • Using a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. So, can dementia be stopped by wearing hearing aids? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be enhanced by wearing hearing aids. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be more socially active and your brain won’t have to work so hard to carry on discussions. Your risk of developing dementia later in life is decreased by treating hearing loss, research suggests. It won’t stop dementia but we can still call it a win.
  • You can take a few measures to safeguard your hearing from further harm if you catch your hearing loss soon enough. You could, for instance, use ear protection if you work in a noisy environment and avoid noisy events like concerts or sporting events.
  • Schedule an appointment with us to diagnose your current hearing loss.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other methods

You can minimize your risk of cognitive decline by doing some other things as well, of course. Here are some examples:

  • Stop smoking. Seriously. Smoking will raise your risk of dementia and will impact your general health (excessive alcohol use is also on this list).
  • Exercise is necessary for good general health including hearing health.
  • Eating a healthy diet, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. Sometimes, medication can help here, some individuals just have naturally higher blood pressure; those individuals could need medication sooner rather than later.
  • Getting sufficient sleep at night is crucial. There are studies that link less than four hours of sleep each night to a higher risk of dementia.

Needless to say, scientists are still studying the link between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complicated disease with a matrix of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Being able to hear is its own advantage

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your general risk of dementia. You’ll be bettering your life now, not only 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 taking steps to deal with your hearing loss, possibly by using hearing aids, can be a big help.

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.