Recent studies have found a link between hearing loss and dementia. In a 2013 study headed by Dr. Frank Lin published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hearing impairment was found to be associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults.
Just because you have hearing loss does not mean that you will develop dementia, but it does mean that you are at increased risk of developing dementia. The reasons for this have not been thoroughly researched yet; however there are several theories about why hearing loss might lead to cognitive decline.
- People who have hearing loss are using a lot of brain power simply to listen which leaves little brain energy to store what has been heard. Over years of this, the brain may not be as strong.
- Imaging has shown that people with hearing loss have less gray matter in the area of the brain that processes speech. If this part of your brain doesn’t get enough “exercise” it may begin to shrink.
- Finally and very importantly hearing loss causes people to withdraw from social activities. Social isolation has already been shown to increase risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
At Constance Brown Hearing Centers we know that treating hearing loss with hearing aids can drastically improve quality of life. While we can’t say for sure that using hearing aids will decrease your risk of developing dementia, we can say that it can’t hurt! We have seen so many patients, who have been avoiding group settings and removing themselves from social situations because they can’t hear, return to their old selves. Hearing loss affects so much more than just your ears! If you or your family is noticing a hearing loss it is time to do something about it.
By Samantha King, Audiologist