Hearing Loss & Dementia

Nearly 40 million Americans have hearing loss, and that number is on the rise. Not only does hearing loss affect your relationships, job security, and physical health, it’s also been linked to rising rates of dementia, and your hearing health could be impacting your brain in profound ways.

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Hearing Loss in Seniors

Seniors are particularly at risk of both hearing loss and dementia, so it’s natural to question if these health concerns are connected. Nearly two thirds of seniors over the age of 70 have hearing loss, and if hearing loss increases the risk of dementia, it is important to treat hearing loss as soon as possible. Dr. Frank Lin from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is concerned by the apathy towards hearing loss. “The general perception is that hearing loss is a relatively inconsequential part of aging,” says Dr. Lin. Sadly, those with hearing loss struggle with more than just their hearing. They have higher rates of trips, slips and falls, more hospitalizations, a greater chance of living with social isolation and depression, and more rapid cognitive decline.

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Hearing Loss in Seniors

Seniors are particularly at risk of both hearing loss and dementia, so it’s natural to question if these health concerns are connected. Nearly two thirds of seniors over the age of 70 have hearing loss, and if hearing loss increases the risk of dementia, it is important to treat hearing loss as soon as possible. Dr. Frank Lin from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is concerned by the apathy towards hearing loss. “The general perception is that hearing loss is a relatively inconsequential part of aging,” says Dr. Lin. Sadly, those with hearing loss struggle with more than just their hearing. They have higher rates of trips, slips and falls, more hospitalizations, a greater chance of living with social isolation and depression, and more rapid cognitive decline.

Are Hearing Loss and Dementia Linked?

Along with other researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Lin has been looking closely at the links between hearing loss and dementia. In a 2013 study, he discovered that those with hearing loss are far more likely to suffer from dementia! In fact, the people in the study with severe hearing loss were 24% more likely to experience cognitive decline, struggle to perform cognitive tasks, and have difficulty concentrating, remembering clearly, or planning effectively.

If you have hearing loss, your brain changes far more than you might realize, and you’ll experience reduced cognitive function which will worsen over time. Lin found that the more severe your hearing loss, the more likely you’ll be to develop dementia, and have an earlier onset of this degenerative brain disease. Even those with moderate hearing loss are three times more likely to have dementia!

How Does Hearing Loss Affect the Brain?

Hearing loss can affect the brain in several ways. One link between hearing loss and dementia is cognitive load. When you spend your entire day straining to hear, your brain is under a lot of stress, and by the evening you’re completely exhausted. When the brain uses so much energy just straining to hear, you’re not able to focus on other tasks, and all the stress will exhaust the brain. You may not have enough brain power left to process what’s been said, encode important information into memory, or get tasks done.

Not only does cognitive load affect the brain, but when you have hearing loss your brain structure may actually begin to change. Certain cells in the auditory centers of the brain are not being used when sounds don’t reach your brain due to damage in the ears. These unused brain cells begin to die, further affecting your brain’s ability to process sounds, and deal with the heavy cognitive load. Those with hearing loss have far less gray matter in the brain than their hearing peers, and this could also be linked to higher rates of dementia among those with hearing loss.

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How Does Hearing Loss Affect the Brain?

Hearing loss can affect the brain in several ways. One link between hearing loss and dementia is cognitive load. When you spend your entire day straining to hear, your brain is under a lot of stress, and by the evening you’re completely exhausted. When the brain uses so much energy just straining to hear, you’re not able to focus on other tasks, and all the stress will exhaust the brain. You may not have enough brain power left to process what’s been said, encode important information into memory, or get tasks done.

Not only does cognitive load affect the brain, but when you have hearing loss your brain structure may actually begin to change. Certain cells in the auditory centers of the brain are not being used when sounds don’t reach your brain due to damage in the ears. These unused brain cells begin to die, further affecting your brain’s ability to process sounds, and deal with the heavy cognitive load. Those with hearing loss have far less gray matter in the brain than their hearing peers, and this could also be linked to higher rates of dementia among those with hearing loss.

Treat Your Hearing Loss to Protect Your Brain

If you’re worried that you might be at risk of developing dementia, one of the best things you can do for your brain health is to treat your hearing loss. A quality pair of hearing aids will help you pick up on all the sounds around you, and stay mentally active. You won’t struggle with social isolation, or feel left out of conversations. You’ll be able to easily focus on tasks, have the energy to connect with friends and loved ones, and keep your brain healthy by learning new skills and leading an active life. Treating hearing loss will reduce your chances of developing dementia, and you’ll enjoy greater health and overall wellbeing. Seek treatment for your hearing loss, and encourage your loved ones to do the same. This could be the key to reducing the rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease among seniors.

Have Questions?

Reach out to Selective Hearing Centers today!

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