Hearing loss is among the most common health issues affecting older adults. In fact, while some level of hearing loss is present in up to two-thirds of those past age 70, hearing loss numbers rise over age 60, and the percentages increase steadily.
There is a direct connection between hearing loss and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive decline. Paired with the increase in hearing loss prevalence are the rising statistics for dementia. In the U.S. alone, there are at least five million people living with dementia as a result of aging. Sadly, it is estimated that among those who live over age 55, one out of six women and one of ten men will develop dementia.There has been conclusive evidence gathered in studies and surveys to confirm a strong connection between hearing loss and dementia. This is true even for mild hearing loss, let alone the more identifiable severe hearing loss. In fact, the worse the hearing loss, the more likely the person is to develop dementia. It is also interesting to note that there are other similar health-related connections, such as hearing loss and heart disease.
How Does Cognitive Decline Affect Hearing?
Hearing loss and dementia seem to be connected through a phenomenon called cognitive decline. Cognitive decline occurs when the connection between our brain cells becomes damaged or lost, usually with age, and hearing loss has been linked with an increased risk for cognitive decline.
Over time, hearing loss seems to shrink parts of the brain that are responsible for auditory response, making those brain cells less active, which can lead to a decline in speech comprehension and can affect areas of the brain that involve sensory perception, such as seeing, hearing, memory, emotions, self-control and decision making. While it hasn’t yet been proven if hearing loss causes cognitive decline, there have been numerous studies that show their relation and conclusions that people with hearing loss can decline at a faster rate.
Tinnitus and Cognitive Decline
According to one study, tinnitus has a slightly greater chance of causing cognitive decline, but there is still a lot we don’t know about their connection. However, tinnitus has been known to produce symptoms such as difficulties with attention span and memory, and some studies have proven that poor cognitive performance was due to tinnitus.
Do Hearing Aids Reverse Cognitive Decline?
While hearing loss is widely prevalent, it can be mitigated. In fact, hearing loss is one of the top potential risk factors for cognitive decline that can be modified. While hearing aids can’t reverse the effects of cognitive decline, they can delay them and slow the rate at which the memory of words is lost.
In addition to being a modifiable risk, solving hearing loss can also protect cognitive function by maintaining and even restoring function in the part of the brain that receives auditory input. This is particularly the case in the earlier stages of hearing loss—all the more reason to get hearing tested and treated in a timely manner.
Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids
The clear antidote for hearing loss is hearing aids. There is enormous room for improvement in the treatment of hearing loss and all of its social and physiological consequences.
That’s because only about 20 percent of those who have hearing loss seek the help they need, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). And when they do finally get that help, they have often waited over a decade from the onset of the problem until they acquire their first set of hearing aids.
Treating hearing loss with hearing aids is valuable on many levels, preventing cognitive decline being just one of them. Those who receive professional help that results in hearing aids are known to have a higher quality of life. This extends from social activities and greater mental health to the workplace, and as proven, to various health conditions such as dementia.
Finding the Best Hearing Aids
Every person’s hearing loss and lifestyle is different, so hearing aids are most effective when customized to meet individual needs. In addition, quality, comfort, ease of use—all of these are important factors for those who benefit from hearing aids.
Diagnosis Comes First
Realizing the importance of recognizing and treating hearing loss early is vital.
If you’d like to schedule a hearing test, call Sonora Hearing Care to schedule an appointment with one of our many audiologists. At Sonora Hearing Care, we take our time to provide the best, longest-lasting treatment for hearing loss, including customized hearing aids. Contact us today.