A Link Between Hearing Loss & Dementia

A Link Between Hearing Loss & Dementia

In Dementia, Hearing Loss by Michael L. Schneller, HIS

Michael L. Schneller, HIS
Latest posts by Michael L. Schneller, HIS (see all)

Hearing loss and dementia are both common aliments of aging individuals but did you know that individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss are up to five times as likely to develop dementia?

According to several major studies, older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, compared to those with normal hearing.

What’s the Link?

Scientists have found that a person’s chances for mental decline seem to go up the worse their hearing problems are. In one study, mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss made the odds of dementia two, three, and five times higher over the following 10-plus years. Studies of older adults who had lost some hearing found that they had mental decline 30%-40% faster, on average. An inner ear has 26,000 nerves that send impulses to the auditory nerve and auditory cortex. “When electric impulses stop, brain atrophy begins to set in.

Risk of Social Isolation

People with hearing loss tend to feel isolated, since it’s hard to join in conversations or be social with others when you can’t hear. Some research has shown a link between feeling lonely or isolated and dementia. So hearing loss may make mental decline happen faster than it would otherwise. Your brain has to work harder to process sound if you don’t hear well. That may take away resources that it could use for other important activities. If your ears can no longer pick up on as many sounds, your hearing nerves will send fewer signals to your brain. As a result, the brain declines.

What Can You Do?

While the odds for developing dementia as you age becomes more and more likely there may be things you can do to lower your chances for mental decline, even if you start to have trouble hearing. If you want try to lower your chances of hearing loss as you age, try to keep your heart healthy with regular exercise and healthy diet, protect your hearing from loud noises, and don’t smoke. If people have elevated risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and clogged arteries along with hearing loss, they and their family are looking at major issues down the road. According to Dr. Frank Lin, an ear surgeon for Johns Hopkins who is credited with much of the top research, estimates the prevalence of dementia will continue to double every 20 years, such that one in every 30 Americans will have dementia by 2050.

Hearing Aids for Future Brain Health

Even when patients take precautions, some people are simply more likely to get hearing loss in older age. In those cases, can using hearing aids protect you from dementia? Dr. Frank Lin is leading a 5-year clinical trial studying 850 people to see if hearing aids can cut dementia. In Dr. Lin’s study people with dementia started wearing inexpensive, over-the-counter devices to boost their hearing. A month later, their caregivers reported improved communication, more laughter, and more storytelling.

“If you’re an older adult with hearing loss, it would make sense to treat that hearing loss,” says Richard Gurgel, MD, of the University of Utah. If you think your hearing has gotten worse with age, Gurgel recommends a hearing screening. The relatively quick, painless test can help you notice how your hearing changes, as you get older and if a hearing aid would help you.

Focus Hearing

If you suspect that you have hearing loss do not put off seeking treatment.  The risks of waiting to treat your hearing could progress your brain to develop dementia and there is just no reason to take that risk.  Make an appointment with Focus Hearing today. We can test your hearing and help you find the perfect hearing aids to protect your amazing mind into the future.