If you have trouble hearing people or find yourself often turning up the volume on the TV, you probably realize you have auditory challenges. What you may not know is that hearing loss may increase your likelihood of suffering from cognitive issues and even dementia.

Here at Hearing & Balance Services of Reston uses her more than 20 years of experience to provide a wide range of hearing services, including preventive, diagnostic, and rehabilitative care. We evaluate each patient’s unique situation and listen to their concerns to provide results that are the most affordable and best suited to every individual.

While it’s no secret both hearing loss and dementia become more common as people age, researchers have discovered there could be a link between the two. With about one-third of people aged 65 to 74 having hearing issues, and almost one in two aged 75 and older being affected, understanding more about the findings is key.

Hearing loss and mental decline

Researchers have found the more severe an individual’s hearing loss, the greater the odds of them developing cognitive issues. One study found the risk of developing dementia over a 10-year period increased by two, three, and five times, depending on whether the hearing issue was mild, moderate or severe.

The decline also occurred more quickly. People with hearing problems showed mental challenges 30-40% sooner than those with typical hearing.

Reasons for the link

There are several theories to explain the connection, and researchers are working to determine which — or which combination — is correct.

One idea proposes that people with hearing issues are concentrating so hard to understand what is being said, that it takes resources in the brain away from other things like encoding memories and could lessen the brain’s resilience over time.

Another possibility is that hearing loss could change the brain structure, and this in turn may impact cognitive skills. Brain imaging studies have shown reduced gray matter in the area of the brain that receives and processes sounds from the ears in older people with auditory problems.

Social isolation might also play a role. Difficulty conversing can lead people who do not hear well to be less social. Feeling lonely and detached from society is a known risk factor for cognitive issues.

Finally, while researchers find it relatively unlikely, there is a chance both hearing loss and dementia could share an underlying cause and be caused by a third health condition.

The good news

While hearing loss can increase one’s likelihood of developing dementia, it does not mean it’s a certainty. There are also things people can do to reduce their risk.

Obviously, protecting the ears from loud noises is important. In addition, maintaining good heart health and quitting smoking are recommended, as smoking increases the odds of vision and hearing loss.

Finally, get a hearing test and hearing aids if necessary. Researchers are currently conducting studies to determine whether hearing aids can reduce the odds of dementia. While the results are not yet in, it is known that hearing aids can help improve interaction and conversation, both of which are vital in keeping the brain active.

If you suspect you are having issues with your hearing, call our office or click the button to book an appointment today.