Do you think of hearing loss as a frustrating or annoying problem that leads to loud televisions or strained conversations? While it is all that, hearing loss can also cause changes in the brain that increase your chances of dementia.
Unfortunately, even mild hearing loss can double your risk of cognitive decline. Worse yet? The more pronounced your hearing loss, the higher your chances of dementia.
Our team at Healthstone Primary Care provides primary care services to people at every age, including routine health screenings and hearing checks. We’d like to share some insights into the connection between hearing loss and dementia.
Hearing and the brain
Most of us associate hearing with communication. But, believe it or not, your ears are constantly sending subtle cues to your brain, even when you aren’t actively listening to anything. For example, whenever you walk, your ears identify signals that help with balance.
When you lose the ability to hear, the parts of your brain involved in auditory function begin to shrink. While it’s common to experience this type of brain atrophy — or cognitive decline — with age, hearing loss accelerates the process.
Studies show that hearing loss leads to more than an additional cubic centimeter of lost brain tissue each year. People with hearing loss also experience significant shrinkage of brain tissue in regions of the brain responsible for processing sound and speech.
Unfortunately, when you can’t hear properly, it makes your brain work harder to process sound. You may not be aware of the multitasking going on, but it can interfere with other mental processes — like being able to walk safely. It can also limit your ability to engage socially, another factor that could contribute to dementia.
Hearing loss can occur for numerous reasons, ranging from genes and medications to noise exposures, infections, and head injuries. The good news is that hearing aids could help reduce the impact hearing loss has on the brain.
How hearing aids help
While nearly 27 million Americans age 50 and older have hearing loss, only 1 in 7 uses a hearing aid. When you delay treatment for hearing loss, you increase your chances of health complications like dementia. Unfortunately, most people postpone getting help with hearing loss for an average of 10 years.
Signs of hearing loss include:
- Needing to turn up the volume on your TV, radio, tablet, or computer
- Noticing muffled speech or sounds
- Having trouble understanding words, especially in crowds
- Having problems hearing consonants
- Ringing in the ears
- Withdrawing from conversations or social settings
It’s also possible to experience dementia-like symptoms when you have hearing loss, so it’s crucial to have regular wellness checks and hearing tests to identify signs of a problem.
Have you noticed hearing changes? Don’t wait to schedule an appointment. Contact one of our Healthstone Primary Care offices in Weston, Davie, or Pembroke Pines, Florida, by calling or booking online today.