Medical science is just now realizing the connection between hearing loss and dementia. Clear evidence exists that even minor hearing loss increases a person’s risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. It is unclear why these individuals are more prone to memory problems, but it may be because struggling to hear taxes the brain. One way to prevent that struggle is to end it with the right hearing assistance device like a hearing aid.
The John Hopkins Study
A 2011 study conducted by Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging looked at the effects hearing loss has on cognitive brain functions like memory. Using 639 volunteers, they recorded their hearing and cognitive abilities over a four year period. They continued to monitor the participants for over a decade.
At the start of the study, some of the volunteers had a hearing deficit, but none showed signs of dementia. By 2008, 58 of the participants were diagnosed with dementia. The study showed that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the research had significantly higher risk of dementia at the end. Those with severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop memory issues.
Does Hearing Loss Cause Alzheimer’s Disease?
While hearing loss is not the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but it appears to be a contributing factor, one of many. Other risk factors that make the list include:
- Heart health
- High blood pressure
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history
- Poor diet
It is easy to dismiss hearing loss as a sign of aging or a normal part of life, but managing the risk factors will lessen your chance of mental deterioration.
Why a Hearing Aid Can Help
Hearing is a very complex process. Sound waves enter the ear and are amplified by the ear drum. Since the brain cannot interpret the actual sound waves, the inner ear must find a way to translate them into a language the brain can understand.
When a person has hearing loss, either the sound waves are not strong enough, conductive hearing loss, or the inner ear has lost the ability to communicate effectively with the brain when making the translation, sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is the one associated with aging.
The brain will struggle to understand the sound whether the hearing process works smoothly or not and that energy taxes the delicate neuron network of the brain. The current theory is that inefficient hearing damages the areas of the brain responsible for cognitive functions. One conclusion the researchers at Johns Hopkins were able to reach is that getting treatment for hearing loss is enough to slow the progression of dementia.
A hearing aid improves a person’s ability to communicate usually by amplifying sound. This reduces that strain by giving the inner ear stronger sound waves to translate. There is no proof that this alone is enough to eliminate a person’s risk of dementia, but it is believed it will lessen the strain on the brain.
Hearing Aids Improve More Than Memory
What is clear is that having a hearing aid improves your quality of life. People who wear them have better relationships with their friends, family and spouses. They enjoy more social activities and spend their time more productively. Getting a hearing aid will give you a better life while lowering your risk of developing dementia at the same time.