Multiple studies now point to a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Crucially, however, international studies also point to the use of hearing aids to prevent this. A study by the University of Michigan also suggests that hearing aids can also help prevent anxiety and depression and lower the risk of falling. 

The connection between hearing loss and dementia

Scientists are still investigating what exactly connects hearing loss with dementia. One common theory is that hearing loss forces the brain to allocate extra resources to processing sound. This leaves it short of resources for other brain functions, hence cognitive decline occurs.  

As the brain stops performing functions through a lack of resources, it loses its ability to perform them. At first, it may simply get out of practice at the task. Later, however, it may decline physically and hence permanently lose its ability to function. At some point, science may be able to reverse this damage. For now, however, the emphasis is very much on prevention.

Understanding hearing loss

There are two main types of hearing loss. These are conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). Conductive hearing loss is caused by physical blockage in the outer or middle ear. This prevents sound from traveling. Conductive hearing loss is often caused by colds, the flu, and allergies due to fluid build-up. It can also be caused by earwax.

SNHL is caused by damage to the inner ear. This can occur for many reasons including noise and the aging process. It may not be reversible, but it is often manageable, especially if people act promptly.

Analyzing hearing loss

It’s important to get your hearing loss assessed by a qualified audiologist. This is because you need to understand it in detail. Specifically, you need to know the degree of hearing loss and the configuration of the hearing loss. 

The degree of hearing loss basically refers to how loud a noise must be before you hear it. Normal hearing means that you can hear sounds in the range of 10-15 decibels. If a sound must be louder than this for you to hear it, you are experiencing some level of hearing loss. This could be anything from slight to profound. Your audiologist will determine this.

The configuration of the hearing loss relates to the exact nature of how you perceive sounds. Your audiologist will test this by playing you sounds at different frequencies and seeing how you respond.

Be aware that you may experience hearing loss in one ear but not the other. Alternatively, you may experience hearing loss in both ears, but to different degrees and in different configurations. If you visit your audiologist regularly, they will also be able to see if your hearing loss is stable or if it is fluctuating or progressing over time.

Understanding hearing aids

Hearing aids can be very roughly divided into two types. These are over the counter (OTC) and prescription. OTC hearing aids can be anything from basic personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) to customizable devices. Prescription hearing aids are created for you based on instructions from your audiologist.


PSAPs work in much the same way as the volume control on an electronic device. They amplify all sound. This means that they may be acceptable as short-term workarounds, while you’re waiting for a prescription hearing aid. Over the long-term, however, they can create excessive noise which can cause further damage to your hearing.

OTC customizable devices

In and of themselves, OTC devices may be perfectly reasonable options for people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. The issue is that it can be very difficult for individuals to customize these hearing aids themselves. If you are considering using one of these devices, it may be best to have an audiologist customize it for you.
Prescription hearing aids

Prescription hearing aids come in a variety of formats. The most common one is still the behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid. As the name suggests, the main device fits behind the ear and is connected to the ear by a tube or tip. Modern BTE hearing aids are both vastly more comfortable and vastly more effective than the ones older relatives may have worn.

Prescription hearing aids are customized to your exact requirements. This improves their performance. It can also make it easier for people to adapt to using the hearing aid. 

Taking care of your hearing

Learn more about how to take care of your hearing at the Hearing & Balance Centers of West Tennessee. Call Jackson us today at (731) 256-5973 or Memphis (901) 201-6761.