Dementia is a progressive syndrome caused by brain illnesses that affect one’s memory, behavior, thinking and ability to accomplish basic daily tasks. It affects over 5 million people in the United States. While there is no cure for dementia, there is cutting-edge research that shows a correlation between hearing loss and an increased risk of developing dementia.
Research has not been able to make a definitive finding that hearing loss can cause dementia, but the evidence that there is a very strong relationship between hearing loss and the development of dementia is overwhelming. In fact, the Lancet Journal published a study indicating that treating hearing loss might be the most effective means of preventing dementia.
A study from John Hopkins found significant brain atrophy (brain shrinkage) in the brains of individuals with hearing loss. The study suggests this is a result of the progressive degeneration of age-related hearing loss. This brain atrophy appears to be incredibly similar to the brain atrophy found in individuals with dementia.
This research suggests that those with even MILD hearing loss have a 200% increased risk of developing dementia. Those who have moderate to severe hearing loss can have a 500% INCREASED RISK in the development of dementia.
Hearing impairment has long been documented to show an association with accelerated brain atrophy. As hearing loss progresses the brain is forced to work harder than it should in order to hear and process all the sounds it’s receiving. This is called cognitive overload. The brain is constantly on “overload” while it tries to piece together portions of conversations and interpret different sounds. Those who treat hearing loss do not work nearly as hard to listen and may have as much as a 20% increase in memory recall.
Progressive hearing loss is not limited to only affecting your hearing. In individuals with hearing loss, MRI evidence reveals atrophy in the areas of memory, hearing, speech and language portions of the brain. Treating hearing loss may help to protect and improve your overall cognitive function.
The benefits of treating hearing loss far outweigh the risks. Don’t be tempted to put off treating your hearing loss for another year or two. The time to treat hearing loss and reduce your risk of developing dementia is now! Whether you will live another 5, 15 or 30 years, give yourself an improved chance at a full and healthy life by visiting one of our hearing specialists.