Is There A Connection Between Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline?
Researchers have attempted to link hearing loss with cognitive decline, but is there any concrete evidence of the relationship or is it just speculation? If it is true, then is there any way to slow down the decline through the use of hearing aids, or is it a condition that you cannot prevent?
Dementia will cause damage to someone before any symptoms are visible
Dementia is a condition that will often cause irreversible damage to other health conditions before more evident symptoms present. While the study of dementia is relatively new, some researchers have suggested that by the time that someone has shown any symptoms of dementia, cognitive decline has already manifested.
However, the focus has shifted to preventing the decline of the brain instead of trying to reverse or stop it. As the general population continues to age and more discussions are started surrounding dementia and its potential link to hearing loss, it will become more of a public health concern that researchers are attempting to solve.
Hearing loss affects the brain because it could be caused by the same condition
Researchers suggest that vascular disease and other conditions can actually cause both hearing loss and dementia, hence why the two are regularly linked. Another possible concern is in the way that people strain to hear and interpret sounds can actually impact memory. This requires more effort to listen, and it’s why some people with hearing loss only hear mumbling from people when they’re in a conversation.
Studies on MRI scans have shown that people with hearing loss occasionally need to use other parts of their brain to process sounds, meaning they will strain themselves more and effectively means that hearing loss can affect cognitive function. Other studies have shown that the lack of stimulation to the parts of the brain that translate speech, can actually lead to a faster decline in cognitive function in those with hearing loss as opposed to those with normal hearing.
Another potential link is in social isolation. Those that have trouble with hearing especially in crowded environments will typically find themselves struggling to keep up with conversations and may find it difficult when they need to ask someone to repeat themselves several times in a single conversation. This means that they might be more inclined to avoid conversations and thus avoid going outside, and this could lead to alienation, which could speed up cognitive decline.
However, these links are all hypothesized, and more research needs to be carried out to reach a solid conclusion, but the links strongly suggest that there could be some connection between the two.
Seeking help for hearing loss is important
Although research is still be conducted to examine hearing loss and the impact it has on cognitive function, it’s still vital that you seek help from a trained audiologist if you’re experiencing hearing loss or symptoms that could lead to hearing loss. The audiologist can help examine your hearing and determine if you currently have hearing loss or not, and can refer you to other medical professionals should you be worried about cognitive decline.
Since permanent forms of hearing loss are typically caused by a loss of function in the nerves of your ear, it’s possible for hearing aids to potentially make it easier for your brain to process sounds because it’s giving assistance, meaning your brain will be under less strain and will have an easier time processing the different signals. This means the use of hearing aids could potentially slow down cognitive decline if there is indeed a link between the two. As more research is carried out, more evidence will be presented that can allow audiologists to offer the right remedies and options to those who are suffering from hearing loss and potentially dementia.
If you’re worried about your hearing loss and the potential issue of cognitive decline, then our audiologists at Hearing & Balance Centers of West Tennessee would be more than happy to examine your hearing and give you expert advice on how to cope with it. We understand the importance hearing has on your daily life, from communicating with family and loved ones to your professional development. If we determine you have hearing loss, we’ll walk you through the necessary steps to select a hearing aid, custom fit it to your needs and educate you about how to use, care for and maintain the device.