Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

a middle aged gentleman getting his ears checked out

As we get older, we are more likely to experience some sort of decline in our cognitive ability. For some, it may be mild, such as being forgetful, but for others, it may be serious, such as dementia. While this can be a normal part of aging to an extent, there is potentially a way to slow it down.

What is the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline?

There have been studies to suggest that people experiencing hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Hearing loss may be associated with a faster rate of cognitive decline for a variety of reasons:

  • Cognitive load: Experiencing untreated hearing loss results in the brain overworking. By constantly exerting itself to understand sound and speech, it results in an inefficiently working brain.
  • Social isolation: This is something where an individual has trouble hearing conversations in a social setting. This may result in an individual wanting to stay at home. That this can contribute to an individual not using their brain. The left stimuli the brain receives due to isolation, the less it has to work with.
  • Brain structure: A lack of stimulation can impact brain cells. This includes the brain cells that process sound.

Put simply, if you don't use it you lose it. When we experience rates of cognitive decline, it can impact our lives in so many ways

How can we help our brain with hearing aids?

There have been studies that show that using hearing aids properly can reduce your risk of dementia. A study that documented hearing loss over 4,000 volunteers over 25 years found that individuals who didn’t use hearing aids but those who experienced hearing loss had a higher risk of depression and dementia. In comparison, those that used hearing aids experience cognitive decline at a similar rate to those that didn't have hearing loss. 

The solution is not about using hearing aids to benefit your brain, but how improving your hearing can help you to stay involved in everyday life. Using hearing aids to improve the sound quality of an individual who is experiencing some degree of hearing loss will restore their ability to improve their communication in social interactions. This has a direct bearing on their frame of mind but will also stimulate their brain in more ways due to the social aspect.

Can this be prevented?

If you are someone who is experiencing some form of age-related cognitive decline or a loved one is beginning to appear more forgetful than normal, modern hearing aids might very well be the solution.

When we are beginning to feel some sense of withdrawal it is because we are struggling to hear the television, but don't have the courage to ask to turn the volume up or we feel that social functions become more difficult. With the numerous studies that have shown that cognitive decline can be reduced with hearing aids, it helps an individual to mitigate the risk factors for dementia. 

Age-related hearing loss

With age-related hearing loss affecting 30%-60% of people over the age of 65 and in individuals aged 85 or older hearing loss consists of 70%-90% of the age group, consulting an audiologist for a hearing test is a very simple approach to improve so many areas of someone's life.

Hearing loss is not just associated with cognitive decline but as a direct correlation, it can contribute to depression, isolation, anxiety and poorer physical health. As hearing loss is undertreated, especially in individuals between the ages of 50 and 70, it is important to get treated sooner rather than later.

When to seek help

Experiencing hearing loss can be challenging for anybody. But as we get older, we can realize how big a risk factor it is. But in addition, getting our hearing treated as soon as possible will ensure that we live a better quality of life. With the direct correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline and the risk factors increasing with every passing decade, you should make it a priority to get this one aspect treated.

There is a direct link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. If you believe it is time to mitigate some of the risk factors in old age or you are experiencing difficulties in a social setting, you can contact pacific Audiology Clinic at 503-719-4208 to book a hearing test.