Studies have shown adults with hearing loss have a higher risk for cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Hearing loss linked to Alzheimer’s disease—what’s the connection?
Studies suggest that hearing loss causes brain changes that raise the risk for dementia.
Brain atropy — When the “hearing” section of the brain becomes less active because it is not stimulated by everyday sounds, due to hearing loss, it causes changes in brain structure, and thus brain function. Atrophy occurs more quickly in people with hearing loss could be the first link between hearing loss and cognitive decline.
Studies show that the brains of people with hearing loss shrink—or atrophy—more quickly than the brains of people with normal hearing.
Brain overload — An “overwhelmed” brain creates the second link between hearing loss and dementia. When it is difficult to hear, the brain must work overtime just to understand what people are saying. Straining to hear all day, every day, depletes a person’s mental energy and steals brain power needed for other crucial functions like remembering, thinking, and acting. This can further set the stage for cognitive decline including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Hearing loss and social isolation
The third link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s is social isolation. A study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) of 2,300 hearing impaired adults found that people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to experience loneliness, worry, depression, anxiety, and paranoia—and are less likely to join organized and casual social activities. When a person withdraws from life, their risk for dementia intensifies.
In short, the less we stimulate our brains by interacting with other people, places, and things—and the less we use our brains to hear and listen—the more quickly our brains decline, putting us at greater risk for dementia.
Hearing aids may reduce your risk of cognitive decline
Numerous studies show that hearing aids not only improve a person’s hearing—they also help preserve a person’s independence, mental abilities, emotional and physical health, and work, home, and social lives. A full, happy life keeps your brain active.
Early identification and treatment of a potential hearing loss helps minimize risks later in life.
Is it dementia or hearing loss?
If a loved one is showing signs of what you think is dementia, for example forgetting what they just heard you say, forgetting appointments they made or seeming confused by verbal instruction, help them get their hearing checked sooner rather than later. Sometimes, undiagnosed hearing loss symptoms are thought to be symptoms of dementia when they’re really not.
For those with Alzheimer’s, hearing loss can aggravate symptoms. A hearing impairment makes it difficult to listen, reply, and respond to verbal cues. It escalates feelings of confusion, isolation, and paranoia.
Hearing aids can help relieve Alzheimer’s symptoms, and several styles are easy for a person with cognitive impairment to use. An American Journal of Epidemiology study found that hearing aids slowed the rate of memory decline and improved the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients with hearing loss.
It’s important to find out the facts. Partner with the hearing care experts at Beltone to understand all the options.
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Keep your edge well into old age. Catch and treat hearing loss early to slow or stop its progression.
Instead of wondering about how a potential hearing loss might affect you, find out where you or a loved one stands. Get a free comprehensive hearing screening from one of our hearing care professionals.