The Link Between Dementia and Hearing Loss: Understand Your Risks

What We Know About Dementia and Hearing Loss

Millions of Americans are affected by dementia, including symptoms of memory loss and “garbled” thinking, and despite years of research, scientists still have not identified a single, treatable cause that could make dementia a thing of the past. However, what research has done is identify factors that may contribute to dementia, and one of the most intriguing factors identified so far is untreated hearing loss.

What makes it intriguing are these key factors:

    • In the U.S., more than 26 million men and women over age 50 have some form of hearing loss; that means more than 26 million people could be at an increased risk of dementia right now. As baby boomers get older and the population ages, that number will increase significantly.
    • Age-related hearing loss is almost always treatable to some extent, which means if hearing loss is in some way contributing to an increased risk of dementia, there are simple, clear-cut steps people can take to reduce those risks.

Hearing Loss and Dementia: The Evidence

The association between hearing loss and dementia has been supported by several studies, and the evidence continues to grow.

For instance:

That’s what the studies have found, but what they don’t know is why hearing loss appears to be associated with an increased risk for dementia. Some researchers believe it could be due to increased isolation and decreased communication that accompanies untreated hearing loss in older people; others believe that when hearing is impaired, the brain uses resources normally allocated to thought and memory to try to increase its interpretation of sounds. The result – a condition called “cognitive overload” which can cause confusion and mental decline. In both cases, correcting hearing loss can help – first, by decreasing feelings of isolation and fostering communication, and second, by reducing “effortful listening” so cognitive overload is reduced or eliminated.

The Importance of Screening and Treatment

No matter what the link is between hearing loss and dementia, data so far supports a relationship between the two conditions, and also suggest that treating hearing loss helps decrease the risk of dementia. What’s more, at least one study recommends treating hearing loss early to ensure the best chance of avoiding potential changes in brain structure that can lead to cognitive decline and dementia.

Further studies are under way to explore the link between hearing loss and dementia, but for the time being, having hearing loss evaluated and treated can play an important role in decreasing dementia risk as well as feelings of isolation and depression that go hand-in-hand with untreated loss of hearing.

If you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms of hearing loss, including difficulty hearing speech in noisy environments, hearing sounds that are muffled or experiencing “ringing” in your ears, schedule a hearing evaluation today to protect your healthy future.

Lifestyle Hearing Solutions

6425 E. Broadway
Tucson, AZ 85710

(520) 323-0099

Lifestyle Hearing Solutions of Oro Valley
200 W Magee Suite 100
Oro Valley, AZ, 85704
(520) 639-8760