What’s the Link Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

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

Want to take all the joy out of your next family get-together? Start to talk about dementia.

The subject of dementia can be very scary and most people aren’t going to go out of their way to discuss it. A degenerative cognitive disease in which you gradually (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your cognitive faculties, dementia forces you to lose touch with reality, experience mood swings, and have memory loss. Nobody wants to go through that.

This is why many individuals are seeking a way to counter, or at least slow, the advancement of dementia. There are some clear connections, as it turns out, between dementia and neglected hearing loss.

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why are the dangers of dementia increased with hearing loss?

What occurs when your hearing loss goes untreated?

Perhaps you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you’re not too worried about it. It’s nothing that cranking up the volume on your television won’t fix, right? Maybe, when you watch your favorite program, you’ll just put on the captions.

Or maybe your hearing loss has gone undetected so far. Maybe the signs are still subtle. Either way, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a powerful connection. That’s because of the effects of untreated hearing loss.

  • Conversation becomes more difficult 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 people as much. This type of social isolation is, well, not good for your brain. And naturally your social life. Further, most people who have this sort of isolation won’t even realize that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will start to work much harder. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stick with us). This will leave your brain filling in the missing info. This is unbelievably taxing. Your brain will then have to get additional power from your memory and thinking centers (at least that’s the current theory). It’s thought that this might hasten the development of cognitive decline. Mental stress and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the result of your brain needing to work so hard.

You may have suspected that your hearing loss was more innocuous than it actually is.

One of the major signs of dementia is hearing loss

Perhaps your hearing loss is mild. Whispers might get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no big deal right? Well, even with that, your chance of developing dementia is doubled.

Meaning that even minor hearing loss is a fairly strong preliminary indication of a risk of dementia.

So… How should we understand this?

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’s no guarantee it will result in dementia. Instead, it simply means you have a greater chance of developing dementia or going through cognitive decline later in life. But that might actually be good news.

Because it means that successfully dealing with your hearing loss can help you decrease your chance of dementia. So how can hearing loss be controlled? There are numerous ways:

  • Come see us so we can help you identify any hearing loss you might have.
  • Using a hearing aid can help decrease the affect of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids prevent dementia? That’s not an easy question to answer, but we know that brain function can be enhanced by wearing hearing aids. Here’s why: You’ll be more socially involved and your brain won’t need to work so hard to have conversations. Research implies that managing hearing loss can help reduce your risk of developing dementia in the future. That’s not the same as stopping dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.
  • If your hearing loss is caught early, there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your hearing. You could, for instance, wear hearing protection if you work in a loud environment and avoid noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.

Lowering your risk of dementia – other strategies

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

  • Quit smoking. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, including your risk of developing dementia (excess alcohol drinking can also go on this list).
  • Eating more healthy food, specifically one that helps you keep your blood pressure from going too high. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to take medication to lower it.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Be sure you get plenty of sleep each night. There are studies that link less than four hours of sleep per night to an increase in the risk of dementia.

Of course, scientists are still studying the link between dementia, hearing loss, lifestyle, and more. There are so many causes that make this disease so complicated. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your overall risk of dementia. But it isn’t just your future golden years you’ll be improving, it’s today. Imagine, no more solitary visits to the store, no more lost conversations, no more misunderstandings.

Missing out on the important things in life is no fun. And taking steps to control your hearing loss, possibly by using hearing aids, can be a big help.

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.