Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. This medical condition progressively deteriorates cognitive functions like memory, learning, and decision making. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 6.2 million people in the U.S have Alzheimer’s and that this figure is projected to more than double. It is estimated that the number of people impacted by Alzheimer’s will reach 13 million by 2050. This irreversible condition can have significant effects on everyday life by impacting mobility and capacity to navigate independently.
Extensive research focuses on identifying and modifying risk factors that can contribute to Alzheimer’s as an effective preventative strategy. Substantial studies actually reveal that there is a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Research shows that people with hearing loss can be more than twice as likely to experience cognitive decline which contributes to the development of conditions like Alzheimer’s. This highlights that treating hearing loss cna help support brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Alzheiemr’s
Numerous studies investigate the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. A significant
A study that examines this correlation was conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Published in the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, researchers evaluated over 10,000 participants, ages 62 and older. Participants had their hearing and cognitive capacities assessed over an 8-year period. Researchers found that people with hearing loss were much more likely to experience cognitive decline. Specifically, their data revealed that cognitive decline among the participants with hearing loss was:
- 30% higher among people with mild hearing loss
- 42% higher among people with moderate hearing loss
- 54% higher among people with severe hearing loss
These findings show that hearing loss can significantly increase the risk of cognitive decline. This data also reveals that the greater the hearing loss, the higher the risk can be. This supports extensive research which identifies hearing loss as a risk factor for cognitive decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Impact of Hearing Loss on Brain Health
To understand how hearing loss can impact brain health, it is important to know that the process of hearing also happens in the brain. The auditory system is the sensory system for hearing and it involves the ears as well as the brain which work together to absorb, process, and understand speech and sound. There are specific portions of the brain that are responsible for speech and language comprehension and these areas process incoming auditory information received from the ears. These areas can be impacted by hearing loss in ways that contribute to cognitive decline. This includes:
- Brain atrophy: studies have shown that the areas of the brain that process sound can shrink. Because these areas receive less auditory information, they become less active and this inactivity can cause them to shrink. This involves a loss of neurons, changes in neural networks, and decline.
- Cognitive overload: the brain is forced to compensate for hearing loss which can involve overextending to try to find and process sound signals. Other areas of the brain can intervene to help which overworks the brain and contributes to cognitive overload and potentially decline.
Additionally, another common effect of untreated hearing loss is social withdrawal. To cope with symptoms, people often avoid conversation as much as possible. This includes spending less time with others, participating less in activities/hobbies, and skipping on social gatherings. Not only does social withdrawal affect relationships and mental health, but it also results in less engagement and stimulation for the brain which can also contribute to cognitive decline.
Treatment Can Help Prevent Alzheimer’s
Treating hearing loss offers numerous life-changing benefits including reducing health risks like cognitive decline. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are innovative devices that are designed to absorb and process speech as well as sound. This provides incredible support, alleviating symptoms and maximizing hearing capacity. Studies show that this strengthens cognitive functions and supports brain health, reducing the risk of cognitive decline.
This includes a 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. Researchers at the University of Melbourne evaluated the impact of hearing aid use on the brain by studying 100 participants (ages 62-82) before and 18 months after using hearing aids. They found that 97% of people showed significant improvement or stability of cognitive functions. This supports further research that highlights that hearing aids boost brain health and cognitive functions.
Contact us today to prioritize your hearing health and wellness by scheduling an appointment for a hearing consultation.