Hearing Loss and Dementia
There is a lot of research underway to determine a direct link between hearing loss and dementia, or cognitive decline in general, but there are some things we do know about the neural relationship between these conditions.
Hearing Loss May Lead To Structural And Functional Changes In The Brain
Firstly, hearing loss has been shown to lead to structural and functional changes in the brain, specifically in the temporal lobe. The degraded input signal and decreased stimulation of the auditory system leads to a reorganization in the brain and in the longer term, brain atrophy.
The Effort It Takes To Listen And Hear Uses Vital Cognitive Resources
Secondly, the effort it takes to listen and hear uses vital cognitive resources, pulling them away from other cognitive processing. This lessens the brain’s ability to cope with existing age-related decline in cognitive function, and that can lead to dementia.
Social And Psychological Link Between Hearing Loss And Dementia
Finally, there is social and psychological link between hearing loss and dementia. We know that individuals with hearing loss tend to decrease their engagement in social activities, and often isolate themselves because it is less difficult to process their surroundings. This can cause or exacerbate an impaired social or emotional connection with others, which leads to feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. This feeling of loneliness and decreased social stimulation are known risk factors for dementia.
While there is still much to learn about the link between hearing loss and dementia, we do know that treating hearing loss with hearing aids can slow, and actually reverse, cognitive decline caused by reduced auditory input. The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.
Therefore, it is essential that adults over 50 years of age have their hearing assessed annually, and treated at the first signs of loss. At Beck Hearing, we offer free hearing tests for anyone over the age of 18, so don’t forget about your hearing health.