Jackson Hearing Center

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The Link Between Hearing Loss & Dementia

an older man with hearing loss

It may not seem like it, but there are a few commonalities between hearing loss and dementia. This may come as a surprise, but the link between hearing loss and dementia is real. It is known that people who experience moderate-to-severe hearing loss are about five times more likely to develop dementia.

With those numbers, it can be difficult to ignore the signs that point to the link between hearing loss and dementia. As hearing worsens, the chances of developing dementia increase just as well. There are a few links that will make these statistics make more sense. The main link is the simple fact of brain shrinkage.

The brain and hearing loss

When the part of your brain that is responsible for hearing becomes inactive, the tissue in that part of the brain will start to decline, which ultimately changes your brain structure. There are studies that back up the fact that people who experience hearing loss also experience brain shrinkage at a faster rate than those who are not hard of hearing.

Another link that can connect hearing loss and dementia together is the fact that it can sometimes be brain overload. What this means is that when your brain is feeling overwhelmed, your brain has to work much harder in order for it to fully understand what the other person is saying. This is something someone who is hard of hearing has to do all day, every day. The constant strain can cause some problems in the brain. 

The mental energy it takes to do essential things like remembering someone’s birthday, a phone number or zip code will be drained because the brain used up all that energy toward trying to hear someone clearly. When this happens that is an ideal position for dementia to take center stage.

Social Isolation

One another link to hearing loss and dementia is the fact that most people who are hard of hearing also socially isolate themselves. When someone withdraws from life because they are depressed, anxious, worried or paranoid, this can have serious adverse effects on the brain. This further increases the risk of developing dementia. That is why it is crucial to keep your brain stimulated by interacting with people, going places and experiencing things. The less you do this, the more likely you can become to developing dementia.

Thankfully there are ways you can prevent or ease the difficulty of experiencing dementia. The best way is to use a hearing aid. They can improve your hearing which in turn can make you feel more independent. This is great for the stimuli of your brain. When you are living a happy life, your brain will work like a charm. Another way you can prevent the effects is to make sure that you are treated early before it starts to cause serious problems. If you are diagnosed with hearing loss, it may be best to have it treated sooner rather than later.

More often than not, most people who have dementia have been wrongly diagnosed. They could just be hard of hearing. This is a common issue. It is known that some undiagnosed symptoms of hearing loss can easily be confused with symptoms related to Alzheimer’s. When you or a loved one are hearing impaired, it can be really difficult to listen, respond and reply to verbal cues. All of these things can intensify feelings of confusion, isolation and paranoia – and all are symptoms of dementia. If you suspect that your loved one is showing signs, make sure that you get their hearing checked first, as that could be the root issue.

All in all, there is plenty more research to be done, but overall, it is understood that there are real links between hearing loss and dementia. It all has to do with the brain. When your brain is not functioning properly, a lot can go wrong. That is why early detection is the best way to avoiding or treating a problem early before it starts taking over you or your loved ones’ lives.

What can you do

Make sure that you talk to an audiologist that can help you determine whether or not you or your loved one is in fact experiencing hearing issues. Once you have done that, and nothing seems to be wrong, then it would be best to go see a doctor. They will be able to check for other signs and symptoms of dementia. They will also provide you with a comprehensive look at your best options to move forward.

To learn more about Hearing & Balance Centers of West Tennessee, give us a call at one of our locations: Jackson: 731-660-5511 and Memphis: 901-842-4327


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