What’s the Link Between Hearing Impairment and Dementia?

Hearing test showing ear of senior man with sound waves simulation technology

If you begin talking about dementia at your next family get-together, you will probably put a dark cloud above the entire event.

Dementia is not a subject most individuals are actively looking to talk about, mainly because it’s rather scary. Dementia, which is a degenerative cognitive condition, makes you lose touch with reality, experience loss of memory, and brings about a general loss of mental function. It isn’t something anybody looks forward to.

So preventing or at least delaying dementia is important for many people. It turns out, neglected hearing loss and dementia have several fairly clear connections and correlations.

That may seem a bit… surprising to you. After all, what does your brain have to do with your ears (lots, actually)? Why are the dangers of dementia multiplied with hearing loss?

When you neglect hearing loss, what are the repercussions?

You recognize that you’re starting to lose your hearing, but it isn’t at the top of your list of concerns. You can simply crank up the volume, right? Maybe you’ll just turn on the captions when you’re watching your favorite program.

But then again, perhaps you haven’t noticed your hearing loss yet. Perhaps the signs are still hard to detect. Mental decline and hearing loss are clearly connected either way. That’s because of the effects of neglected hearing loss.

  • It becomes harder to understand conversations. As a result, you may start to isolate yourself socially. You might become distant from loved ones and friends. You won’t talk with people as much. This type of social isolation is, well, not good for your brain. It’s not good for your social life either. Further, most individuals who have this sort of isolation won’t even know that hearing loss is the cause.
  • Your brain will start to work much harder. When you have untreated hearing loss, your ears don’t pick up nearly as much audio information (this is kind of obvious, yes, but stick with us). As a result, your brain will attempt to fill in the gaps. This is incredibly taxing. Your brain will then need to get extra power from your memory and thought centers (at least that’s the present concept). The idea is that over time this results in dementia (or, at least, helps it progress). Mental fatigue and exhaustion, as well as other possible symptoms, can be the consequence of your brain needing to work so hard.

You might have thought that your hearing loss was more harmless than it really is.

One of the principal indicators of dementia is hearing loss

Let’s say you have only slight hearing loss. Like, you can’t hear whispers, but everything else sounds normal. Well, turns out you’re still two times as likely to get dementia as someone who does not have hearing loss.

So one of the initial indications of dementia can be even mild hearing loss.

So… How should we interpret this?

Well, it’s important not to forget that we’re talking about risk here. Hearing loss isn’t an early symptom of dementia and there isn’t any guarantee it will lead to dementia. It does mean that later in life you will have an increased risk of developing cognitive decline. But there could be an upside.

Because it means that successfully managing your hearing loss can help you decrease your risk of cognitive decline. So how can hearing loss be managed? Here are several ways:

  • Make an appointment with us to identify your current hearing loss.
  • If your hearing loss is detected early, there are some steps you can take to protect your hearing. For example, you could steer clear of noisy events (such as concerts or sports games) or wear hearing protection when you’re around anything loud (for example, if you work with heavy machinery).
  • The affect of hearing loss can be minimized by using hearing aids. Now, can hearing aids prevent cognitive decline? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but we appreciate that brain function can be enhanced by using hearing aids. This is the reason why: You’ll be able to participate in more discussions, your brain won’t have to work as hard, and you’ll be a little more socially involved. Your chance of developing dementia in the future is decreased by treating hearing loss, research indicates. It won’t prevent dementia but we can still call it a win.

Lowering your chance of dementia – other methods

You can minimize your risk of dementia by doing some other things as well, of course. This might include:

  • Eating more healthy food, especially one that helps you keep your blood pressure from getting too high. For people who naturally have higher blood pressure, it may be necessary to use medication to lower it.
  • Make sure you get plenty of sleep every night. There are studies that link less than four hours of sleep each night to an increase in the risk of dementia.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Don’t smoke. Seriously. It just makes everything worse, including your risk of experiencing dementia (this list also includes drinking too much alcohol).

Needless to say, scientists are still studying the connection between dementia, hearing impairment, lifestyle, and more. It’s a complex disease with an array of causes. But the lower your risk, the better.

Hearing is its own benefit

So, over time, hearing better will decrease your general risk of dementia. You’ll be bettering your life now, not only in the future. Imagine, no more missed conversations, no more garbled misunderstandings, no more silent and lonely visits to the grocery store.

It’s no fun missing out on life’s important moments. And taking steps to control your hearing loss, perhaps by using hearing aids, can be really helpful.

So call us today for an appointment.



The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.