Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

a man cupping a hand to his ear

There is no denying that as we start to get older, some aspects of our health begin to change. This can be especially evident in our cognitive ability. For some, it might be very mild and for others a little more serious. Although it is a normal part of aging to experience typical issues such as forgetting minute details, taking a little longer to learn things or having difficulty concentrating, it can also be linked to other factors such as untreated hearing loss.

The truth is, we cannot stop the aging process from happening, so it is worth better understanding the connection between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline to help combat any further effects. The great news is that if you understand the link between hearing loss and the functionality of your brain, you can help yourself by being more aware and also taking actions to protect your hearing and cognitive health. 

What’s the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline?

There are many studies that have suggested that older people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to experience cognitive decline including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Hearing loss can definitely be a factor, but why does this happen? 

Many researchers have different theories. Some of them include the following:

  • The first theory has a lot to do with cognitive load. With untreated hearing loss, the brain is likely overwork and constantly straining to understand speech and sound. Therefore, an overworked brain doesn’t work efficiently as it would do normally. 
  • Another theory that could be a conclusion to why hearing loss and cognitive decline are linked has a lot to do with brain structure. This is because brain cells can shrink from lack of stimulation, including the parts of the brain that receive and process sounds. Without hearing regular sounds, your cognitive function becomes atrophied.
  • There is also a theory that is linked to social isolation. This is when a person has trouble hearing conversations and socializing and is therefore likely to avoid those situations. Choosing to stay at home instead. However, the more isolated someone is, the less stimulus the brain has of other factors and can therefore cause a decline.

Are there any other issues that are linked with hearing loss?

The truth is, dementia and cognitive decline are not the only conditions linked with hearing loss. There has been plenty of research that associates hearing loss with other conditions. These include: 

  • Heart and cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Chronic kidney disease

Sometimes some of the most important things that we can do is to keep our brains and our bodies as healthy as possible, especially as we get older. It is more important than ever to have mental stimulation. Things that you can do to help would include having an active social life with friends, family and even work colleagues. We can also encourage good hearing health and that includes speaking with an audiologist if you are struggling with any hearing loss. The use of hearing aids could dramatically improve your life in the areas suggested above. Which can then help you to avoid other issues mentioned that can hinder your health and lifestyle. 

Helping your hearing with the use of hearing aids

The use of hearing aids can lower the risk factor of cognitive decline issues such as dementia. Specific studies suggest that people with hearing loss who didn’t use hearing aids had a higher risk of experiencing cognitive decline and other health issues such as depression. However, people who did use hearing aids because of their hearing loss experience cognitive decline at a similar rate to people who don’t have hearing loss. So there is a real connection between the use of hearing aids and not seeking out any help and support for hearing loss. 

It has been concluded that the key isn’t simply the ability to be able to hear better but how better hearing can allow people to stay involved in everyday life, and this is where the big factor lies. Restoring the ability to communicate better, hearing aids can help to improve mood, social interactions and also help to keep your brain stimulated. 

Treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids with options such as in the ear (ITE), behind the ear (BTE) and in the canal (ITC) could help you to live a fulfilled life. It’s never too early or too late to work on your hearing health. If you want a little more information perhaps to learn more about Flynn Associates, hearing aids and to arrange an audiologist appointment then you can get in touch at the following telephone numbers: 

  • Concord: (978) 759-3540
  • Wellesley: (781) 943-5040