Hearing Loss and Dementia: The Silent Connection
Scientists are finding more and more evidence that trouble with hearing makes it more likely to have signs of dementia, a condition marked by memory loss and trouble with thinking, problem-solving, and other mental tasks.
That doesn’t mean that people with hearing loss (about two-thirds of adults over 70) are guaranteed to have dementia -- simply that the odds are higher.
What’s the Link?
Scientists have found that a person’s chances for mental decline seem to go up the worse their hearing problems are. In one study, mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss made the odds of dementia 2, 3, and 5 times higher over the following 10-plus years. Studies of older adults who had lost some hearing found that they had mental decline 30%-40% faster, on average. Looked at another way, they had the same mental decline in 7.7 years, on average, as someone with normal hearing showed in 10.9 years.
- People with hearing loss tend to feel isolated, since it’s hard to join in conversations or be social with others when you can’t hear. Some research has shown a link between feeling lonely or isolated and dementia. So hearing loss may make mental decline happen faster than it would otherwise.
- Your brain has to work harder to process sound if you don’t hear well. That may take away resources that it could use for other important activities.
- If your ears can no longer pick up on as many sounds, your hearing nerves will send fewer signals to your brain. As a result, the brain declines.
Although there is a link between Dementia and Hearing loss, Not everyone will be effected the same way, some may not be effected at all. There will continue to be ongoing studies and information throughout the years.