Hearing Loss and Dementia

Understanding the Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

Recent studies have shown a connection between untreated hearing loss and a higher risk for developing dementia. At Johns Hopkins University, studies have demonstrated that the inability to properly hear speech can put undue strain on the brain. In one study, Dr. Frank Lin and his team tracked 639 adults over the course of 12 to 18 years, which revealed that people with untreated hearing loss at the start of the study were more likely to develop dementia. This study concluded that “mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. Moderate loss tripled risk, and people with a severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia.”

The Link Between Untreated Hearing Loss and Dementia

To understand this link, it is important to recognize that hearing happens in the brain. Indeed, our ears play a major role, but the bulk of the work that goes into auditory processing happens in the brain. With untreated hearing loss, speech recognition and sound clarity become difficult. When we experience sound in our environment, the brain must work harder to process these sounds with untreated hearing loss. This creates what researchers call a heavier “cognitive load,” which requires the brain to siphon resources from other processes to make sense of sound. With untreated hearing loss, this increased cognitive load could open up the risk for developing dementia.

Another correlation lies at the intersection of untreated hearing loss and social isolation, both of which are risk factors for developing dementia. When people struggle with speech recognition, conversations in social settings may become difficult. Over time, people with untreated hearing loss may withdraw from attending events or spending time with friends and family, due to struggles with communication. This social isolation is a detrimental consequence of untreated hearing loss, and it poses a big risk for developing dementia.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is a natural process of aging, but it is important to remember that dementia is not. One of the ways to mitigate the risk for developing dementia is to seek treatment for hearing loss.

When it comes to preserving your cognitive abilities and bolstering your mental health, seeking treatment for hearing loss is an important action to take. Treating hearing loss begins with a hearing test. If a hearing loss is detected, our team will work with you to find the perfect hearing aids to meet your needs. With hearing aids, you’ll find that conversations are accessible once again, reconnecting you to the ones you love.