Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline
The Link between Hearing Loss and Dementia
Researchers have discovered a connection between hearing loss and the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Studies have proven a concrete link between the two conditions, but additional research is needed in order to find a solution. However, doctors and hearing healthcare professionals have discovered several theories as to why hearing loss is often an early symptom or even a contributing cause of dementia. Here, we’ll look at a few of these ideas.
1. Cognitive Load
When a person slowly loses their ability to hear, they naturally strain more to comprehend the sounds around them. Doing so puts constant stress, or an increased cognitive load, on the part of the brain related to hearing. By doing this the brain lacks the resources required for other functions, such as turning information into memory. Over time, the brain’s ability to recover may be permanently damaged and essential functions will be affected. Accordingly, it’s important to seek treatment for hearing loss as soon as possible, as hearing aids can reduce this cognitive load and support healthy brain function.
2. Social Isolation
People with hearing loss often avoid social situations where they are not able to participate fully because they can’t hear what others are saying. Actively avoiding people and social settings is a common risk factor for dementia and other forms of cognitive decline. Engaging with others is critical to maintaining proper cognitive function, and hearing aids often make it easier to confidently join in conversations. As an added benefit, greater interaction and stronger relationships may also reduce anxiety, depression, and other emotional and mental health concerns.
3. Gray Matter
Just like the muscles in your body, parts of the brain require regular use to maintain their function. This may be especially relevant for hearing and memory. Scientists believe as hearing loss increases, the related brain cells receive less stimulation due to sound. The cells shrink due to a lack of stimulation, reducing the ability to hear and limiting the potential for future stimulation. With time, reduced gray matter can lead to dementia and other forms of cognitive decline. Hearing aids can help increase the sound stimulation needed to receive and process audio signals and potentially maintain cognitive abilities.
Don’t Wait to Address Hearing Loss
If you or a loved one notice the signs of hearing loss or symptoms of dementia, don’t wait to seek help. Make an appointment as soon as possible to schedule a hearing assessment and learn more about hearing aids. Receiving proper treatment can help slow or prevent cognitive decline and allow you to continue enjoying the things you love for the years to come.