Dementia and Hearing Loss: Is Anyone Listening?
Dementia and Hearing Loss

Dementia and Hearing Loss: Is Anyone Listening?

Over the past few years, researchers at Johns Hopkins have completed several studies examining the connection between dementia and hearing loss. To do so, these researchers consistently met with a number of seniors over multiple years and tracked which ones developed memory conditions as well as the speed of progression. Their research didn’t necessarily suggest dementia is caused by hearing loss, but it did uncover a clear link. Continue reading to learn more about the connection between dementia and hearing loss as well as ways you can mitigate the hearing loss risk factor. 

Connecting Dementia and Hearing Loss

Based on the results from the previously mentioned study, the researchers have developed a few different theories on why they think the connection exists between dementia and hearing loss. 

Theory #1: Cognitive Overload

When seniors are not able to hear well, their brain is forced to work substantially harder to simply make sense out of what others are saying. Every conversation you participate in necessitates increasing mental work and energy. In the event your everyday conversations are taking up the majority of your mental energy, you’ll have a lot less to put toward cognitive functions, such as remembering. 

Theory #2: Altered Brain Function

Over time the actual area in your brain responsible for hearing and interpreting auditory data can begin to function differently as the hearing component becomes strained or goes away. As a result, this changes the way your brain is structured, which could be related to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. 

Theory #3: Social Isolation

Feelings of isolation and loneliness can cause serious problems for seniors — both mentally and physically. And if you have difficulty hearing, it can become harder and harder to keep up special connections. This can lead to experiencing all of the negative effects of loneliness and social isolation

What Does the Connection Between Dementia and Hearing Loss Mean? 

First things first, it’s critical to understand that hearing loss doesn’t mean you or your loved one will develop Alzheimer’s. There are several seniors who began having hearing problems in their later years and continued to live without experiencing dementia. However, the clear connection between dementia and hearing loss does tell us that if we’re able to minimize hearing loss, there is a decent opportunity of reducing the likelihood of developing dementia or lessening the severity of it. 

In fact, one study at a hospital in Paris offered several people suffering from deafness in a minimum of one ear a cochlear implant. Once the implant was placed, the researchers tracked their cognitive abilities, and a stunning 80% of the people with the implant demonstrated an improvement in cognitive performance in a year. 

Tips to Manage Hearing Loss

Effectively managing hearing loss is one part of adopting a mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy lifestyle. Here are a few tips and best practices you can easily implement into your life to help reduce the likelihood of premature hearing loss as well as dementia. 

Protect Your Hearing 

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), over 40 million Americans currently suffer from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which is the most preventable type. However, you can substantially reduce your risk of developing NIHL by simply turning down the volume on your listening devices. 

Anytime you anticipate you’ll be exposed to loud noises, make sure you take protective hearing. And if you regularly have hearing hazards in your life, make sure you’re prepared to protect your hearing. 

Test Your Hearing 

It’s vital to have regularly scheduled exams to have your hearing evaluated. You can speak to your primary care physician to receive a referral to a local audiologist. Just as most of us get annual physicals, make sure to have your hearing tested at a minimum of one time every year. 

At one of the initial appointments, your audiologist will conduct a baseline hearing test, which will benchmark your hearing. From that point, any changes can be documented and will quickly highlight the degree of hearing loss. 

Treat Your Hearing Loss

Your ears are tasked with collecting sounds, and your brain works to quickly make sense of and process the random sounds you hear every day. In the event you’re diagnosed with hearing loss and hearing aids are suggested, it’s imperative you don’t put treatment off. 

Best of all, today’s hearing aids are comfortable, extremely discreet, and can even connect to the latest technology, like smartphones and more. In addition to being able to hear better, you’ll take some stress off your brain, which can yield long term benefits. 

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are electronic devices designed to partially restore hearing. Cochlear implants are options for those suffering from severe hearing loss and those who receive minimal benefit from hearing aids. 

Contact LIAF

At Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation, we work to help people and families impacted by Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. We offer stage-specific programs and caregiver supports to help everyone live a higher quality of life. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, we want to help. 

Contact LIAF today!

About the Author Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center

At the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center, our mission is to improve the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia, and their caregivers. We actively work to achieve this mission through research-based programming for all stages of Alzheimer’s, Caregiver Support Groups, in-home respite solutions, transportation options, and additional services.

follow me on:

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia?