Did you know that people with hearing loss can be more likely to experience cognitive decline? Extensive research shows that there is a link between hearing loss and declining brain health. Cognitive decline is characterized by a slowing down of cognitive functions and this is a key characteristic of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If you have hearing loss, it is important to prioritize treatment which helps protect your brain health.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline
Studies show that there is a significant link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. This includes a major study published in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. Researchers evaluated the cognitive and hearing capacities for 10,107 over the course of 8 years. At the onset of the study, participants did not have cognitive challenges but after 8 years of assessment, researchers found that cognitive decline was:
- 30% higher for people with mild hearing loss
- 42% higher for people with moderate hearing loss
- 54% higher for people with severe hearing loss
This data highlights that overally, people with hearing loss were much more likely to develop cognitive decline. Another critical finding is that the greater the hearing loss, the greater the risk is for experiencing cognitive decline. This study supports substantial findings that identify hearing loss as a risk factor for cognitive decline.
Impact of Hearing Loss on Brain Health
You may be wondering how exactly hearing loss can contribute to cognitive decline. Well, first it is useful to know that hearing happens in the ears as well as the brain. There are specific portions of the brain that are responsible for processing auditory information. When hearing loss occurs, these areas of the brain are impacted in specific ways that can contribute to cognitive decline. This includes:
- Brain atrophy: due to receiving less auditory information and less stimulation to engage with and process, portions of the brain become inactive. This inactivity can cause these areas to shrink which includes a loss of neurons and changes of neural networks which can contribute to cognitive decline.
- Cognitive overload: to compensate for hearing loss, the brain is forced to work harder to try to detect and process speech as well as sound. Other areas of the brain can step in to help with this, causing cognitive overload. The brain then uses extra resources and energy and this can also contribute to cognitive decline.
- Social withdrawal: to cope with symptoms, people with hearing loss tend to avoid conversations as much as possible. This often includes spending less time with others, avoiding social activities, and participating less in hobbies. Social withdrawal not only impacts social life and relationships but it also provides less stimulation and engagement for the brain, potentially contributing to cognitive decline.
These outcomes of untreated hearing loss can take a toll on brain health. This highlights the importance of intervening as early as possible to treat symptoms.
Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss
Treating hearing loss offers numerous life-changing benefits including supporting brain health, reducing the risk of cognitive decline. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplogy, and process speech as well as sound. This provides the ears and brain with ample support, alleviating hearing loss symptoms and maximizing hearing capacity. Not only does this strengthen hearing and communication, but it enhances brain health.
Studies have shown that hearing aids strengthen cognitive functions. The support hearing aids provide is to benefit the brain and prevent the overload and atrophy that can be experienced with untreated symptoms. This boosts brian health and reduces the risk of experiencing cognitive decline.
Prioritize Your Hearing Health Today
The first step towards treating hearing loss is simple: schedule an appointment for a hearing test. Hearing tests involve a painless and noninvasive process that measures hearing capacities in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss and the degree of impairment you could be experiencing in each ear. Once your hearing needs are identified, treatment is then tailored to meet those needs. Contact us today to learn more about hearing loss and cognitive decline as well as to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. We look forward to helping you access the many benefits of treatment!