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The Link between Dementia and Hearing Loss

Older couple sitting on a bench talking with the men making a sign to the woman to speak louder

Did you know several studies have reported a connection between older adults with untreated hearing loss and cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? As hearing loss worsens, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia increases, particularly amongst those with a hearing impairment greater than 25 decibels (dB). Here’s an overview of some of the impacts of untreated hearing loss.

Does untreated hearing loss lead to dementia?

It’s been speculated that untreated hearing loss may promote cognitive decline. When your hearing is compromised, your brain is forced to use more resources to process auditory information. This means that fewer resources are dedicated to other functions, such as learning and memory, potentially making your brain more susceptible to developing dementia.

Moreover, brain scans show that hearing loss may cause the brain to atrophy more quickly. This is because the inability to hear and communicate often leads to social isolation. When your brain cells are understimulated, the brain shrinks, which can trigger Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive illnesses.

The risk of dementia varies based on the level of untreated hearing loss. The chances of developing dementia are doubled for those with untreated mild hearing loss, tripled for those with untreated moderate hearing loss, and quadrupled for those with untreated severe hearing loss.

It’s also been suggested that untreated hearing loss can worsen symptoms of dementia for those already diagnosed with the disease. This includes the inability to undertake new responsibilities, being less attentive, impatience, annoyance, hostility and depression, to name a few.

Additional consequences of untreated hearing loss

Hearing loss has been associated with other comorbid conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The vascular effects of diabetes and heart disease inhibit the blood supply to the cochlea, which can lead to sensorineural hearing loss.

Having untreated hearing loss also puts you at an increased risk for falls. Even mild hearing loss triples the risk of an accidental fall. This risk increases by 140 per cent for every additional 10 dB of hearing loss.

How hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia

A report by the Lancet Commission entitled “Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care” was released on July 30th, 2020. The research states that 12 modifiable risk factors could delay or prevent 40 per cent of dementia cases. Of these 12 risk factors, untreated hearing loss remains the largest modifiable risk factor of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Hearing aids support your brain by helping you process sound and keep your brain mentally stimulated. Although hearing aids can’t stop or reverse memory loss, they can help you maintain stronger memory over a longer time. Your ability to hear supports social engagement and active participation in the world around you.

According to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, older adults newly diagnosed with hearing loss and using hearing aids have a lower risk of being diagnosed with dementia, depression or anxiety for the first time over the next three years. They also have a lower risk of suffering fall-related injuries than those who don’t use hearing aids.

The importance of hearing tests

Given the consequences of hearing loss, early recognition and intervention are essential. If you’re concerned about your hearing or feel that you can’t hear properly, don’t wait to schedule your hearing test. Hearing loss develops gradually, so it’s essential to have your hearing screened in your mid-40s.

Soundwave Hearing Care is a leader in comprehensive adult hearing tests and hearing aids in Calgary and Grande Prairie. Monitoring your hearing now can help prevent several other health problems as you age and ensure you have better hearing in your senior years.

When you visit us, an experienced member of our clinical team will conduct a diagnostic hearing test. Afterward, you’ll be provided with a thorough interpretation of the results. This includes a written report with recommendations and therapy options for you and your doctor, if necessary.

Our quick and accurate hearing screening test can provide a snapshot of your hearing thresholds so you can understand the extent of your hearing loss. Detecting hearing loss early means you have a better chance of treating it or stopping its progression.

Custom hearing solutions in Alberta

If you think your hearing is on the decline, speak with an audiologist at Soundwave Hearing Care to ensure any hearing issues are detected before they worsen. We offer comprehensive hearing tests and auditory processing assessments to get to the root of your hearing problem. Use our online form to book your hearing test, or visit one of our convenient locations to learn more about how a customized hearing aid could improve your hearing.

All the blogs are reviewed and edited by our clinic's lead audiologist, Dr. Anne Wooliams. Dr. Woolliams is an experienced audiologist specialized in pediatric audiology, auditory processing, and tinnitus/sound sensitivity therapy. She is dedicated to providing top-notch hearing care and helping her clients improve their language and communication abilities. Dr. Woolliams' expertise in literature and linguistics, combined with her passion for helping people improve their language and communication, make her an incredibly valuable asset in the field of audiology. Learn more about Dr. Woolliams.