Although the link isn’t completely understood, numerous studies have found links between hearing loss and the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
With more than 5.7 million people in the U.S. currently living with some form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. Every 65 seconds, another person develops Alzheimer’s, making it a growing public health concern.
Although hearing loss can increase your risk of cognitive decline, Audiology Services of Marin reminds you that treating your impairment can help promote brain health.
Hearing loss compounds the communication difficulty that Alzheimer’s patients experience. Individuals with dementia often fail to respond to stimuli – they may not answer questions or respond to sounds in their environment. Throwing hearing loss on top of this makes conversation and engagement difficult or impossible.
The good news? Wearing hearing aids has been shown to limit or slow the rate of cognitive decline.
A large research project known as the Health and Retirement Study examined about 2,000 senior citizens before and after they started wearing hearing aids.
The study assessed cognitive function by asking participants to remember a list of 10 words, both immediately after hearing them and after being asked to complete other tasks. Researchers checked rates of cognitive decline before and after hearing aids were introduced. It discovered that the use of hearing aids cut the rate of cognitive decline by 75%.
Although scientists remain uncertain as to how hearing loss and cognitive decline are related, there are some theories.
One line of thinking is that when hearing function isn’t what it should be, the brain must dedicate more energy to hearing conversation and sounds. This puts a burden on the brain – enough of a burden that it saps its ability for other tasks such as memory.
Another rationale is that hearing impairment leads to isolation due to the individual feeling less comfortable in social settings. Because they’re not able to follow conversation effectively, they may withdraw from family and friends. This lack of stimulation to the brain can expediate the cognitive decline process.
Early detection of hearing loss is key to limiting its effect and keeping Alzheimer’s and dementia at bay. If you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss, learn more about services at Audiology Services of Marin by calling 415-461-9703 or contact us online.