Did you know that having hearing loss puts you at an increased risk for cognitive issues? Research shows a clear link between the two conditions. Several studies have found that the worse your hearing loss is, the greater the chance you have of developing a cognitive disorder, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s (the most common type of dementia). Understanding the connection between hearing loss and cognitive health starts with learning more about the brain’s role in the hearing process. And now’s a great time to do it—June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.
Your Brain Is Part of Your Hearing System
Hearing only starts with your ears. Although they pick up sound and translate it into neural signals via the auditory nerve, it’s only once these signals get to the brain that they are processed into sound. So you actually hear with your brain! When you have untreated hearing loss, your brain receives less information from the hearing system and less stimulation. Some experts believe that this inadequate brain stimulation contributes to cognitive decline over time.
What Does the Research Say?
Study after study shows a relationship between hearing loss and cognitive issues. One study tracked 639 adults with hearing loss for close to 12 years. It found that mild hearing loss doubled a person’s dementia risk and moderate hearing loss tripled the risk. People with severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop dementia. 1 Another study followed 10,000 men with hearing loss. It found that the risk of cognitive decline was 30% higher among men with mild hearing loss compared to those without hearing loss. In addition, for those with moderate to severe hearing loss, the risk of cognitive decline was 42 to 54% higher. 2
How Treating Hearing Loss Can Help
Using hearing devices to ensure your brain gets the sounds it needs to thrive can make a positive impact on your cognitive health. A 2018 study involving 2,040 hearing aid users who self-reported symptoms over 18 years showed that while episodic memory did decline with age for most users, the rate of cognitive decline was slower for patients who used hearing devices. 3
Hearing devices can’t prevent you from developing cognitive decline. But they may be able to preserve your cognitive abilities for longer. In addition, people who wear hearing devices are less likely to be depressed and more likely to be socially engaged and self-confident in their communication abilities. Social engagement and physical activity can help stave off cognitive decline and dementia.
With the right combination of early detection through testing and effective hearing loss treatment, you can help keep your brain as healthy as possible—for as long as possible.
If you’re concerned you or someone you care about may have a hearing loss, call Precision Hearing at 352-765-8008 today to schedule an appointment.
1 John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). The hidden risks of hearing loss. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-
2 Curhan, S., et al. (2019). Longitudinal study of hearing loss and subjective cognitive function decline in men.
Alzheimer’s & Dementia. https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1016/j.jalz.2018.11.004
3 Maharani, A., Dawes, P., et al. (2018). Longitudinal relationship between hearing aid use and cognitive function in
older Americans. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29637544/