Recent studies conducted on patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s have shown that there is a possible link between these memory-related conditions and hearing loss. The studies have suggested that experiencing age-related hearing loss may, in some cases, be a precursor to dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. This is due to the fact that many hearing evaluation doctors and researchers now believe that hearing loss is more closely related to the health of our brains than was previously assumed. Here is everything that you need to know.
Understanding the Studies
Many of these studies have been conducted in similar ways and each has generated similar results. The approach revolved around meeting with and examining various individuals of a similar age. Some of these individuals were suffering from hearing loss, while some were not. The meetings would continue over the course of a number of years. The researchers would then track which of the individuals were subsequently diagnosed with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, as well as how quickly the condition progressed in each case. In the vast majority of these studies, those who had been diagnosed with hearing loss wound up with higher rates of dementia. Further to this, in many instances, the more severe the hearing loss, the faster the condition progressed.
So, What Is the Link?
Contrary to popular assumption, the studies do not suggest that hearing loss causes dementia or Alzheimer’s. Rather, they suggest that there is some sort of link between the two. Unfortunately, the exact nature of this link still remains unknown, although there are a few theories that have been put forward over the last few years.
Some experts claim that hearing loss may change the way in which your brain functions. They claim that when the aspect of the brain that is responsible for processing auditory information becomes strained or is used less frequently, it completely changes how the brain functions as a whole, which could trigger dementia/Alzheimer’s over time.
Others assume that hearing loss has a negative effect on one’s cognitive load. In other words, those with hearing problems need to work a lot harder in order to process information and complete day-to-day social tasks and conversations. When all of your mental capacity and energy are going towards this, there is less left for memory and other cognitive functions.
Some think that social isolation may well be the link. It has been scientifically proven that social isolation does a person’s mental health no favors. Seeing as though many people who struggle to hear will avoid social situations as a result, there is a good chance that social isolation may play a role in the degradation of brain function.
Finally, researchers believe that hearing loss and dementia/Alzheimer’s may simply have the same underlying cause, which is likely to be a separate health issue, gene or environmental element.
What Is the Bottom Line?
Ultimately, suffering from hearing loss definitely does not mean that a dementia diagnosis is inevitable. However, what the link could mean is that reducing the chances of developing hearing loss in the first place could also reduce your chances of developing dementia later in life. Prevention is better than cure, so make sure that you:
- Steer clear of loud environments,
- Get regular hearing assessments,
- Avoid using Q-tips to clean your ears, and
- Protect your hearing whenever necessary using noise-canceling headphones or earplugs.
Are you looking for a great hearing evaluation doctor (audioprosthologist)? Look no further than the Chenault House of Hearing. Our Beltone hearing care center now offers free hearing screenings! Contact us for more information or to book your appointment today.