Hearing Loss and Dementia: What’s the Link?

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 talking about dementia.

The subject of dementia can be very frightening and most people aren’t going to purposely talk about it. A degenerative cognitive disease in which you slowly (or, more frighteningly, quickly) lose your mental faculties, dementia causes you to lose touch with reality, go through mood swings, and have memory loss. No one wants to experience that.

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

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. What could your brain have to do with your ears after all? Why does hearing loss increase chances of dementia?

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

Perhaps you’ve noticed your hearing loss already, but you aren’t too concerned about it. You can just crank up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just put on the captions when you’re watching your favorite show.

Or perhaps your hearing loss has gone unnoticed so far. Perhaps the signs are still subtle. In either case, hearing loss and cognitive decline have a strong correlation. That could have something to do with what happens when you have neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes more difficult to understand conversations. Consequently, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You can withdraw from family, friends, and loved ones. You won’t talk with people as often. This type of social isolation is, well, bad for your brain. And naturally your social life. What’s more, many individuals who experience hearing loss-related social isolation don’t even recognize it’s happening, and they most likely won’t connect their isolation to their hearing.
  • Your brain will be working overtime. 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 tire your brain out. Your brain will then have to get additional power from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the present theory). The idea is that over time this leads to dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental fatigue and exhaustion, along with other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain having to work so hard.

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

Hearing loss is one of the leading indicators of dementia

Let’s say you only have mild hearing loss. Whispers might get lost, but you’re able to hear everything else so…no problem right? Well, turns out you’re still twice as likely to develop dementia as someone who does not have hearing loss.

So one of the initial signs of dementia can be even minor hearing loss.

Now… What does that mean?

Well, it’s essential to remember that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will result in dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have a greater risk of developing cognitive decline. But there could be an upside.

Your risk of cognitive decline is lowered by successfully dealing with your hearing loss. So how can hearing loss be controlled? Here are several ways:

  • Wearing a hearing aid can help reduce the affect of hearing loss. Now, can hearing aids stop dementia? That’s difficult to say, but hearing aids can boost brain function. Here’s the reason why: You’ll be capable of participating in more conversations, your brain won’t need to work so hard, and you’ll be a little more socially involved. Research implies that managing hearing loss can help reduce your danger of developing dementia when you get older. That’s not the same as preventing dementia, but it’s a good thing nonetheless.
  • You can take some steps to protect your hearing from further harm if you detect your hearing loss early enough. You could, for instance, use ear protection if you work in a noisy environment and avoid noisy events such as concerts or sporting events.
  • Make an appointment with us to diagnose your existing hearing loss.

Other ways to reduce your dementia risk

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

  • Exercise is needed for good overall health and that includes hearing health.
  • Make sure you get plenty of sleep each night. Some research links a higher risk of dementia to getting fewer than four hours of sleep each night.
  • Eating a healthy diet, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it could be necessary to take medication to bring it down.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. Smoking will raise your chance of dementia as well as impacting your general health (excessive alcohol use can also go on this list).

The link between lifestyle, hearing loss, and dementia is still being researched by scientists. There are so many causes that make this disease so complex. But any way you can reduce your risk is good.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will reduce your overall risk of cognitive decline. You’ll be improving your life now, not just in the future. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more muffled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely visits to the grocery store.

Losing 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 significantly.

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.