Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Hearing loss can have multifaceted effects on health and wellness. In addition to reducing hearing capacity, hearing loss that remains untreated can increase several health risks. Extensive research shows that people with hearing loss can actually be more likely to experience cognitive decline. This highlights that untreated hearing loss can impact brain health in significant ways. This correlation underscores the importance of prioritizing hearing health and treating hearing loss. 

Link Between Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline 

Numerous studies show a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Research reveals that people with hearing loss can experience a higher risk of developing cognitive decline. A major study that investigates this link was published in the  Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. Researchers evaluated the cognitive and hearing capacities for 10,107 for 8 years. While participants did not have cognitive challenges when the study began, after 8 years of assessment, researchers found that cognitive decline was: 

  • 30% higher for people with mild hearing loss 
  • 42% higher for people with moderate hearing loss 
  • 54% higher for people with severe hearing loss 

These findings not only show that people with hearing loss were much more likely to experience cognitive decline but also that the degree of hearing loss increased the risk. This data supports extensive research that identifies hearing loss as a risk factor for cognitive decline. An increased risk of experiencing cognitive decline includes the development of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s – chronic conditions that take a toll on essential cognitive functions and brain health. 

Impact of Hearing Loss on Brain Health 

You are likely wondering how hearing loss and cognitive decline are related. But it is important to remember that hearing doesn’t only happen in the ears but also the brain. There are specific portions of the brain that are responsible for speech adn language processing. The brain receives auditory signals and processes these signals which includes assigning meaning to them, allowing us to understand what we hear. Hearing loss can affect these areas of the brain in the following ways (which contributes to cognitive decline): 

  • Brain atrophy: studies have shown that portions of the brain can shrink due to receiving less auditory information. Reduced activity in these areas can lead to a loss of neurons, change neural networks, and shrink which can contribute to cognitive decline. 
  • Cognitive overload: the brain is forced to work harder in searching for and processing sound signals. Other parts of the brain can intervene to compensate for hearing loss which causes the brain to over extend itself. Cognitive overload can lead to fatigue as well as contribute to cognitive decline. 
  • Social withdrawal: a common effect of untreated hearing loss is social withdrawal. To cope with symptoms, people tend to avoid conversations as much as possible. This includes spending less time with others, engaging lesson activities, and skipping out on interaction. This can impact mental health as well as result in less activity and stimulation for the brain, contributing to cognitive decline. 

These outcomes of untreated hearing loss can take a toll on brain health and contribute to cognitive decline. This highlights the importance of treating symptoms as early as possible. 

Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss 

Treating hearing loss offers countless life changing benefits. The first step is simple and involves scheduling an appointment to have your hearing health evaluated. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacities in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss and the degree of impairment you could be experiencing. Once your hearing needs are known, your hearing healthcare provider is able to tailor treatment to meet those needs. 

The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. Today’s hearing aids are more advanced and savvy than ever before. These electronic devices process sound, providing the ears and brain with ample support. This alleviates hearing loss symptoms and maximizes one’s hearing capacity which strengthens communication. This also improves relationships and social engagement as people are better able to participate in conversation and activities. Treating hearing loss also strengthens cognitive function and brain health, reducing the risk of cognitive decline. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test, we look forward to supporting you as you prioritize your hearing health and wellness.