The Association Between Hearing Loss and Dementia and What You Can Do About It

The Association Between Hearing Loss and Dementia and What You Can Do About It

If you pay attention to medical news, you may have heard that scientists are discovering connections between hearing loss and dementia. These reports may worry you, especially if you are already experiencing hearing loss.

Fortunately, it's never too late to take steps to protect your hearing and lower your risk of many diseases of aging, including dementia.

At Sharp Hearing Care Professionals, Dr. Kevin Sharim and our team of audiologists and hearing aid specialists stay up to date with all the latest hearing-related medical news. We take your health concerns seriously, and we make sure to provide you with the context you need to optimize your hearing and your health.

Here, we would like to share some important information with you about potential associations between hearing loss and dementia, including steps you can start taking right away to protect your health.

Age-related conditions

Hearing loss is a common issue affecting older adults. Approximately one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have some type of hearing loss. In people over age 75, roughly half have a problem with their hearing, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Similarly, dementia is a common age-related condition. Dementia is a general term used to describe cognitive symptoms such as memory and attention problems, confusion, and trouble making decisions. Although Alzheimer's disease is the most common kind of dementia, there are other types of dementia as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5 million Americans over the age of 65 have some kind of dementia. That number is expected to increase to 14 million by the year 2060.

Significant connections

Research has shown important links between hearing loss and dementia. For example, a Johns Hopkins study found that dementia risk doubled in people with mild hearing loss, tripled in people with moderate hearing loss, and was five times more common in people with severe hearing problems.

Why would there be a connection? Scientists don't know for sure. But one possibility is that hearing loss causes parts of your brain to atrophy, or waste away. This may make your brain more vulnerable to dementia, especially if you are genetically predisposed to age-related brain conditions.

What's more, having trouble hearing can cause your brain to work overtime figuring out what other people are saying. This could strain the brain in a way that makes it susceptible to dementia.

Another possibility is that factors in the brain that are connected to hearing loss are also connected to dementia. And another theory is that hearing loss causes people to shy away from social interaction. Social isolation contributes to the development of dementia; avoiding friends because you can't hear what they're saying could make dementia more likely.

Protecting your ears and your brain

While scientists study this question further, you can start taking steps today to safeguard your hearing and your cognitive health. Some of these steps include the following:

Take good care of your hearing

Have regular audiology check-ups, follow your ear care provider's advice, wear hearing aids if recommended, and protect your ears from loud noises. Optimizing the hearing ability you do have could help ward off cognitive decline.

Take good care of your overall health

There are many ways to reduce your risk of many age-related health conditions, including getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, managing chronic health conditions such as diabetes, and seeing your primary care physician and specialists regularly.

If you're concerned about dementia, consider following a brain-healthy diet such as the MIND diet, which is rich in anti-dementia foods such as berries, leafy greens, and whole grains.  

Socialize with others

It's tempting to avoid spending time with friends and family when you have trouble hearing them. But social isolation can be harmful to your physical health, mental health, and well-being. If hearing loss is interfering with your social life, tell us. We will do everything in our power to make your hearing the best it can be.

Help for all your hearing needs

We want to help you optimize your health and your quality of life, as well as your hearing. Schedule an appointment with our care team by contacting one of our offices, which are conveniently located in Oxnard, Santa Barbara, West Hills, and Santa Monica, California.

You Might Also Enjoy...

How to Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Living in a noisy world increases your risk of hearing loss — either in a single moment or from long-term damage over time. But it doesn’t have to. Learn how to prevent noise-induced hearing loss with earmolds.
7 Things That May Trigger Your Misophonia

7 Things That May Trigger Your Misophonia

Most people get irritated by loud noises or annoying sounds from time to time. But with misophonia, you have an intense emotional and even physical reaction to common sounds others don’t even notice. These types of sounds can trigger this response.
When Is a Hearing Test Necessary?

When Is a Hearing Test Necessary?

Hearing loss affects people of all ages, so everyone can benefit from testing. However, there are signs that can indicate a problem, making hearing tests more of a necessity. Are you worried about your hearing? Here’s when to schedule a test.
Could My Musical Child Benefit From Earmolds?

Could My Musical Child Benefit From Earmolds?

The best way to avoid noise-related hearing loss involves proactive behaviors — specifically, using hearing protection and limiting exposure to loud sounds. It’s never too early to start, especially with young musicians. Read about how earmolds help.
How Bell’s Palsy Can Affect Your Hearing

How Bell’s Palsy Can Affect Your Hearing

People often associate hearing problems with aging, but they can occur for several reasons. In fact, health conditions like Bell’s palsy can trigger hearing issues, including tinnitus and hyperacusis. Read on to learn more.
What Causes Hearing Loss?

What Causes Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is a common problem, especially as people grow older. But why? Causes can vary depending on the type of hearing loss. It can also occur gradually, making the first signs difficult to notice — and it can start at any age.