Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, affects one in three people ages 65 to 74 and half of people age 75 and older. Often considered a normal and acceptable part of aging, many older adults with difficultly hearing don’t seek treatment. Indeed, only one in five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually use one.
While improving your hearing is a significant reason to wear hearing aids, emerging research also suggests that impaired sound perception could be a risk factor for dementia. It appears that the association between hearing loss and cognitive decline begins at minimal levels of hearing impairment. The question is, does hearing loss cause dementia, and can hearing aids help prevent this?
Why Hearing Loss May Lead to Dementia
The brain is comprised of interconnected networks that are slowly thrown off balance by gradual hearing loss. This can have widespread effects, including atrophied speech and comprehension regions, likely from lack of use.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans show that a garbled signal from the ears activates the brain regions responsible for reasoning, decision making, and memory—not speech and comprehension, where auditory signals usually go. This overloads these regions of the brain, making them work harder for the listener to understand what they’re hearing.
Besides the direct impact on the brain, people with untreated hearing loss tend to engage in fewer social activities, another known risk for dementia. With our current scientific knowledge, it’s unclear whether people who lose their hearing and develop alternative communication methods have any greater risk of cognitive decline.
Treating Hearing Loss May Help Prevent Dementia
Much of the discussion has surrounded treating older adults who are already hard of hearing. However, research shows that hearing aids don’t halt or reverse cognitive decline—but they can slow it down by 75 percent. The trick, then, is to intervene earlier.
Routine hearing tests can detect the early stages of hearing impairment. If you have no known hearing loss, are middle-aged or younger, and are not regularly exposed to loud noises, schedule a hearing test every three to five years. If you’re over age 60 or work in a high-noise occupation, get screened once a year. Even minor hearing loss can increase your risk for cognitive decline in later years, so act immediately if any impairment is detected.
Be aware that numerous factors contribute to cognitive decline, most of which are genetic and beyond your control. However, treating environmental and lifestyle factors—including impaired hearing—may help stem the worldwide rise of dementia.
Cost is one of the biggest barriers to treating hearing loss. At Elite Hearing Centers of America, we make it fast, easy, and affordable to improve your hearing. Get started with a free hearing test, followed by a free, 30-day hearing aid trial. No cost, no obligation, no kidding. Plus, your 100% satisfaction is guaranteed. For more information about treating hearing loss with cutting-edge hearing aids, please call 855-432-7354 or contact us online. You’ll be glad you did!