Dementia & Hearing Loss

Brain Trees

We have known there is a link between hearing loss and dementia since 1989.  Research by Johns Hopkins University and others has confirmed what many audiologists and physicians have long feared.  There is an irrefutable link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Initial problems such as memory loss and an inability to concentrate can worsen over time. Left untreated, this may eventually lead to dementia and other forms of severe cognitive impairment.

In the most recent study, publish in 2013, 2,000 older adults (average age: 77) were tracked for a period of six years. Those who began the study with the worst hearing loss – impairment bad enough to interfere with daily conversational ability – were 24 percent more likely to see a decline in cognitive ability compared to individuals with normal hearing. A similar study published in 2011 concluded that persons with moderate hearing loss were three times as likely to develop dementia. These figures are striking and confirm the need for early intervention.

Correlation Between Hearing Loss & Dementia

It is thought that the increased cognitive load the brain experiences when trying to hear properly taxes the resources that would otherwise be available for memory and concentration. Alternatively, a decrease in the brain’s “gray matter” may lead to a shrinkage in brain cells and a resulting inability to process sound. Another factor may be the social isolation many individuals with hearing loss experience; this lack of socialization has been shown to accelerate cognitive decline and dementia.  The good news is that there are things that can be done to help decrease the cognitive load, help the brain process sound, and decrease isolation.   If your brain is experiencing auditory deprivation, there are treatments available for that as well.

If you have a hearing loss, even mild and relatively unnoticeable to you in day-to-day life, studies show that patients who treat their hearing loss with proper treatment reduce their odds of cognitive decline and, at the very least, delay the onset of dementia. Early detection is key! If you are 45 years old or older, we recommend to have a full diagnostic test done annually.  If you are experiencing hearing loss, it’s best to seek treatment as soon as possible in order to avoid mental deterioration. Even if you are unaware of a problem, schedule an evaluation with us to make sure. Because symptoms develop slowly, many patients adjust to gradual changes in hearing without realizing there is anything wrong.

Call Texas Professional Hearing Center, Inc. at 281-420-8033 for more information or to schedule an appointment with our specialist.