Hearing Loss & Dementia
Hearing loss has been linked to a range of health conditions such as depression, loneliness and anxiety. Even more, the latest research suggests that it might also increase the risk of dementia.
When we think of dementia, it usually refers to a set of symptoms that usually include problems remembering things, as well as trouble with cognitive tasks like problem-solving or use of language. They usually start off small and slowly build up until they begin to affect our everyday lives. Mood swings and sudden changes in personality are also linked dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is currently the most common disease that leads to symptoms associated with dementia, but there are many more. These symptoms can also be bought on by strokes.
How we lose our hearing
It’s helpful to first understand how hearing loss occurs before discussing its link to dementia. Hearing loss occurs due to the degeneration of the tiny hair cells in the ear. These hair cells have the role of transferring auditory information to the brain for it to be processed into sound that is understood by the individual.
How hearing loss leads to cognitive decline
As the hair cells stop sending information to the brain, the brain is unable to process that information properly, but that doesn’t stop it trying its absolute best to do so. Unfortunately, with only a small amount of auditory information to work with, it struggles. Imagine being given a sentence with every other word blanked out, that’s what the brain has to deal with when the ears have lost a significant number of ear cells. As the brain tries to make sense of the chequered set of words it is given, the strain it experiences can lead to negative consequences.
Dr. Frank Lin, an academic at Johns Hopkins University ran a study which concluded that those with hearing loss were 24% more likely to have Alzheimer’s Disease. He also found a positive relationship between the severity of the hearing loss, and the likelihood of Alzheimer’s.
Other studies have also made this connection. The most recent was conducted by Professor Helene Amieva in France. This study observed 3,777 participants aged over 65 for up to 25 years. A third of these had hearing loss symptoms. Looking at the impact of hearing loss on a wide range of health conditions including depression, disability and death, the study concluded that those with hearing loss suffered an increased risk of disability and dementia in later life. Crucially however, participants using hearing aids were not subject to the same level of risk.
What can account for this increased risk? As this link is relatively new, researchers understand that more work is needed before we know for sure. But they have suggested that untreated hearing loss serves to stretches out brain’s cognitive capacities in the wrong ways, which makes it hard to function mentally at 100%.
How treating your hearing can help
These studies show that untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia. But don’t despair! By treating our hearing loss, we can help maintain our cognitive abilities, which will help keep dementia at bay.
These benefits were put into sharp focus in a study by British researchers at the University of Manchester. Cognitive decline can be slowed down by an astonishing 75% through the use of hearing aids, according to the recent research Dr. Piers Dawes and Dr. Asri Maharani.
Hearing aids also help people with hearing loss feel more confident in social situations, especially when they are out in public. This can help them maintain connections with friends and family. Spending time with those closest to you reduces the prospect becoming socially isolated, itself a risk factor for dementia.
Get in touch with Best Life Hearing Center today and start a path to healthy hearing.Contact Us
Get in touch with Best Life Hearing Center today and start a path to healthy hearing.