Hearing loss and dementia - Elderly couple talking with hearing aids

It seems like hearing loss is linked to many different diseases and disorders like balance problems, diabetes, and heart disease, just to name a few. But research shows that there is a link between hearing loss and dementia.

First off, let’s define Dementia

According to alz.org, “Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life”. Dementia can be classified as a wide range of diseases and it can be expanded to four categories:

  1. Alzheimer’s
  2. Vascular
  3. Lewy Body
  4. Frontotemporal

One main symptom of Dementia is the loss of cognitive ability, and cognitive ability is directly linked to audiological input. Both hearing loss and dementia rely on cognitive ability. Hear-it.org claims, “the reason should be that the brain activity is reduced by the reduced audiological input and that the brain is like a muscle that needs to be used and trained to keep on working well”.

Another study by Arthur Wingfield talks about the brain’s “cognitive load”. When something in the brain blocking your ability to hear, then the brain has to work harder to compensate. Cognitive load, essentially, is the efforts of constantly straining the brain and its primary functions.

This not-yet-fully-proven connection between hearing loss and dementia is also thought to be true due to the social aspect. When an individual experiences hearing loss, they begin to slowly disengage from social activities. Social isolation turns off a part of the brain. that deals with cognitive function and reasoning.

“[due] to this lack of stimulation can increase your risk of developing dementia, social engagement is one of the activities promoted to protect brain health” (Clevelandclinic.org).

When dealing with the relationship between the hearing loss and degenerative diseases, we need to focus on the main organ driving all our thoughts and decisions: The Brain.

So let’s incorporate healthy habits and turn them into a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Keep your mind active by playing board games, reading, and any activity that stimulates your mind and/or incorporates physical movement
  2. Maintain healthy and consistent relationships with friends and family members
  3. Exercise regularly at least 30 minutes a day can vastly improve your mental health
  4. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, fish, olive oil, nuts, and seeds

If hearing loss is diagnosed early and properly treated, then it can help the reduce the onset of dementia. If you notice subtle or major differences in your hearing please contact your local doctor or audiologist.

Recent studies show a 94% correlation between hearing loss and Dementia.

What are the symptoms of Dementia?

Dementia is a mental disease that affects older adults, causing difficulty in:

  • memory
  • communication
  • the ability to focus
  • judgment
  • sight

A 2011 study found that volunteers with hearing loss had cognitive abilities that declined 30 to 40 percent faster than those with normal hearing. Frank Lin, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, proposes that the reason there is a cognitive decline in older adults is that the brain devotes too much energy to processing sounds, therefore neglecting other brain functions that deal with memory and reasoning. Essentially, experiencing hearing loss drastically speeds up cognitive decline. If left untreated, it may lead to dementia or other neurodegenerative diseases.

How to Prevent Dementia

Only 15 percent of people with hearing loss buy a hearing aid, causing them to neglect the issue and struggle down the road with listening and communicating. With a hearing aid, patients can improve their cognitive function by 50 percent just within a year.

The best methods to counter dementia is to utilize:

  • physical exercise and diet
  • social engagement
  • quality sleep
  • hearing aids

To prevent you or a loved one from experiencing permanent hearing loss, schedule an audiology consultation today.