How hearing loss can contribute to dementia

It is an unfortunate fact of life that nothing lasts forever. As we progress through the great circle of life, our bodies start to deteriorate when we come full circle in our golden years. This is when weaknesses we have developed along the way become more prominent and the knock on effects manifest itself in diseases such as dementia and Alzheimers. This causes a lot of trauma and heartache not just for sufferers, but also for their families.


Much is known and done to look after our physical health and to make sure preventative steps are being taken. We know that we should eat healthy and exercise regularly. We keep a good eye on blood pressure and cholesterol levels; go for eye tests and other routine check-ups.  But not much attention is being given to our hearing by way of preventative hearing tests and regular assessments. It is mostly only when the damage has already been done and hearing loss is very apparent, that we make our way to an audiologist for hearing tests and to obtain the best hearing aids.


Maybe it is a case of out of sight out of mind, or that hearing impairment does not cause physical pain and so one tends not to take it too seriously. When there is just a hearing impairment instead of total loss of hearing we are also inclined to think of it as a part of ageing that is rather an annoyance instead of a serious contributor to the development of dementia. Research into the connection between dementia and hearing loss is also fairly new so this will add to the time it takes to educate the wider public to make them aware of taking better care of their hearing.


The silent links

Dementia is a disorder linked to mental decline. It has also been found that suffering from hearing loss or hearing impairment contributes to mental decline. A person’s chances for mental decline seems to go up the worse their hearing problems are. But how does hearing loss contribute to mental decline?

  1. Isolation

Studies have shown a direct link between hearing loss, feeling isolated, and dementia. When someone experience loneliness and isolation it leaves them emotionally vulnerable which can lead to weakening of their overall wellbeing.

  1. Mental strain

The brain has to divert and dedicate important resources to help the strained processing of sounds. The increased effort of having to work so hard to decode sounds may overwhelm sufferers and leave them open to develop dementia. This is referred to as cognitive overload.

  1. Brain function decline

We know that with ageing the brain slows down and brain function declines. Couple this with fewer signals being sent from the hearing nerves in a person with hearing loss and you have a recipe for even bigger brain function decline. The saying if you don’t use it you lose it holds very true in this instance.






Treatment of hearing loss can decrease the chances of developing dementia.

Approximately two thirds of adults over the age of seventy suffer from hearing loss. It does not mean that people with hearing loss are guaranteed to have dementia, but it means that the odds are higher in helping to speed up cognitive decline when you cannot hear.


Dr Melissa Alexander from Alexanderaudiology, specializes in working closely with dementia and Alzheimer patients.  She says that having mild hearing loss and leaving it untreated, has been shown to make you twice as vulnerable to dementia. Leaving severe loss untreated leaves you with five times higher incidence of dementia. The good news is that there are things you can do to lower your chances for dementia, even if you already have started to have trouble hearing.  This makes it really important that people understand the importance a lot better and take action in time to treat hearing loss aggressively.


Lower your chances of dementia

If you treat hearing loss right away with the best hearing aids after a proper hearing test, you will retain the clarity you have for the rest of your life. It is best to make an appointment to visit a specialist audiologist. Based on your hearing test results, you will be advised on the best route for treatment. Treatment could be as simple as removing ear wax or prescribing an antibiotic to clear up an infection, to more advanced solutions such as hearing aids or cognitive implants.


If hearing loss cannot be reversed, it can be dramatically improved which will literally transform the quality of life of the hearing impaired and sufferers of dementia.

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