According to the National Institute on Aging, adults with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia than those who have normal hearing. More research must be done to find the precise connection between dementia and hearing loss, but recent Johns Hopkins research did make clear that the risk of dementia began to rise once hearing loss began to interfere with the ability to communicate. Those with just a mild hearing loss may be twice as likely to develop dementia, and those with hearing loss have demonstrated a 30-40 percent accelerated rate of cognitive decline.

More than 47 million people across the globe are living with dementia, according to the World Health Organization, with cases expected to more than triple by 2050. However, when you take proactive steps toward protecting your hearing health, you may also reduce your risk of serious cognitive disease.

Exploring the Links: What You Need to Know

Many people with untreated hearing loss struggle to hear and understand conversation, especially in the presence of background noise. Results of the Johns Hopkins research suggest that the strain of constant active listening on the brains of those with hearing loss may be a contributing factor to increased risk for development of dementia.

Researchers found:

  • Those with mild hearing loss were nearly twice as likely to develop dementia.
  • Those with moderate hearing loss were three times as likely to develop dementia.
  • Those with severe hearing loss were nearly five times as likely to develop dementia.

Dementia is a popular example of cognitive decline; it’s a general term for a decline in mental abilities detrimental enough to affect your everyday life. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Hearing loss may be strongly associated with increased risk of dementia, anxiety, and depression, as well as poorer physical and mental health overall.

In a University of Utah longitudinal cohort study of more than 4,400 older adults, otolaryngologist and professor Dr. Richard Gurgel and his team found that subjects with hearing loss developed dementia at a higher rate than their normal-hearing counterparts. The study, published in 2014, also suggested the following:

  • People with hearing loss can experience earlier onset of cognitive decline.
  • People with hearing loss can experience greater severity of cognitive decline.
  • Hearing loss may be a marker for cognitive decline among people 65 and older.

Hearing loss, in some instances, might also be a leading indicator of other health concerns. As hearing diminishes, people often socially withdraw rather than experience feelings of frustration or embarrassment at not hearing and understanding. Such social isolation is a known risk factor for dementia and those with hearing loss often suffer from social isolation.

Symptoms of Cognitive Decline

We’ve categorized each warning sign according to three types — physical, psychological, and social — to help you better understand the real-life impacts hearing loss can have. Also, notice how each one of these categories affects the other.

Physical:

  • Tiredness and exhaustion
  • Vertigo
  • Headache
  • Stress
  • Eating and sleeping problems

Psychological:

  • Feelings of embarrassment, shame, guilt, and anger
  • Sadness or depression due to isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Self-criticizing thoughts and low self-esteem

Social:

  • Reduced desire to socialize
  • Problems communicating with a spouse, friends, and relatives
  • Problems interacting with co-workers at work
  • Isolation
  • Inability to concentrate

How This Affects You

Cognitive impairment may cause you to have trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions. Cognitive impairment also ranges in severity. With mild impairment, you may begin to notice changes in cognitive functions, but still be able to do everyday activities. Severe levels of impairment can lead to losing the ability to understand the meaning or importance of something and the ability to talk or write, resulting in the inability to live independently.

What You Can Do

The great part about these discoveries and ongoing research is that more people are getting their hearing checked at younger ages and finding out that the solutions for hearing loss are simpler than they may have first thought. Actions can be taken that yield positive results.

Awareness is key in helping to treat hearing loss. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of hearing loss, contact our audiologists. We will be able to assess the nature of the hearing loss, provide a diagnosis, and prescribe treatment if necessary.

We want to help you live the happiest and healthiest life you can through better hearing. The sooner you act the sooner we can help. Contact us today to request a consultation appointment.
 
Contact Us

 
Learn about Aural Rehabilitation