A 2011 study conducted by Johns Hopkins has shown a link exists between hearing loss and dementia. With one in eight people over the age of 12 suffering from some level of hearing decline, the importance of this study is clear. How are these two seemingly separate conditions linked, though?
What Causes Hearing Loss?
There are many factors involved in hearing loss, but the most common cause is aging. As a person grows older, delicate structures in the ears break down. Other possible causes include:
- Traumatic damage to the ear from noise or disease
- Ear infections or abnormal growths
- Congenital defects
Some types of hearing loss are temporary, such as earwax build up. Hearing loss from noise, disease or trauma can be sudden but, for most people, it’s a gradual process.
Symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Muffled sounds (especially speech)
- Louder than normal background noises
- Difficulty hearing consonants
- The need to turn up the volume
What is the Connection Between Hearing Loss and Dementia?
The John Hopkins study showed that even a small amount of hearing loss doubles a person’s risk of dementia. Moderate to severe hearing loss makes it up to five times more likely that you will suffer from conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. The decline happens faster with hearing loss, too, as much as 40 percent faster.
The reason for this isn’t entirely clear, but the current theory is that hearing loss puts a strain on the brain and that increases the risk. When the brain has to work harder to hear, it uses resources that would otherwise go to functions like short-term memory.
There is also a social factor involved in hearing loss and dementia. People with hearing loss tend to isolate themselves and that lack of social interaction increases the risk of dementia. It’s possible when the ears stop sending signals, the brain declines, as well, kind of like a muscle that doesn’t move will atrophy.
Most people notice they are struggling to remember things from time to time but dementia is more pronounced and chronic. Symptoms would include:
- Difficulty finding words
- Poor reasoning skills
- Trouble handling complex tasks
- Poor coordination
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate behavior
The good news is that wearing hearing aids can help with the effects of dementia, such as helping regain speech understanding, and reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation. At U.S. Hearing Solutions, we offer free hearing assessments that involve a comprehensive hearing evaluation, as well as an expert consultation to discuss the evaluation results. We offer an array of affordable hearing aid options to meet every budget, cosmetic, and hearing loss need. If you are struggling to hear, contact U.S. Hearing Solutions today.