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Why are People with Hearing Loss More Prone to Dementia?

an older gentleman with hearing loss

Many people experience hearing loss in their lifetime, and the good news is that there are treatment options available. Whether you have a child, you or a grandparent is hard of hearing, you likely have several questions on your mind regarding the onset of the hearing loss.

One reason for your concern may be because studies show that people with hearing loss are more prone to dementia. There are explanations as to why this holds true and a lot of useful information is out there to help you sort through and better understand this reality. Learn more about the link between the two so you’re prepared if someone you love is going through hearing loss and showing signs of dementia.  

Research studies

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have studied the link between hearing loss and dementia over the past few years. They took time to meet with seniors over several years and tracked who developed dementia and the speed at which the condition progressed. What they found from each study is that the people with hearing loss also had higher rates of dementia.

Not only were they more likely to have dementia when experiencing hearing loss, but they also discovered that the worse the hearing loss was, the more likely they were to develop dementia. While there’s no proof or reason to suggest hearing loss causes dementia, researchers believe there is a strong link between the two.

Change in brain function

Hearing loss causes your brain to change due to the loss of hearing. The part of your brain that’s in charge of your hearing and processing auditory information may start to function in a different way once you’re unable to hear as well. The change in brain structure may be related to dementia and make you more prone to having it. The chemical imbalance may lead to negatively impacting other areas of your brain and causing memory problems and damage to healthy cells.  

Social isolation

Your mental and physical health may go down if you choose to isolate and not be very sociable. There are many benefits you can gain from being with others and building strong relationships. It’s challenging to maintain these connections when you’re hard of hearing and can’t understand what someone is saying and have a fluid conversation. Eventually, you may become lonely and lose motivation even to want to be social if you have hearing loss and are finding it difficult to engage with others.  

Cognitive load

One reason people with hearing loss are more prone to dementia is that it may be a simple case of cognitive overload. When you always have to repeat yourself or ask what others are saying it can become mentally draining and not leave you with much energy for anything else.

Everyday conversations may be all the capacity you have to think and process information which doesn’t leave room for you to put any effort into memory and other cognitive functions. In this case, it may help to see an audiologist so they can test your hearing and offer up treatment and therapy solutions in the hopes that you’ll be able to hear better and not strain so much.  

They share a cause

While it’s not certain, there is a possibility that those who experienced hearing loss and dementia in the studies researchers performed had a third health issue that was the cause of this result. They did their best to control this, but there’s always a chance that something else is going on with these participants and hearing loss and dementia is the outcome of another health complication.

What you can do

These are a few reasons as to why people with hearing loss are more prone to dementia. It’s vital to note that just because you or a loved one has hearing loss doesn’t mean you’re going to get dementia. However, there’s a link between the two that’s worth noting and multiple studies have shown that people with hearing loss are more prone to dementia.

The upsides are that if you can work to minimize any hearing loss, then there’s a better chance that you or a loved one will not also have dementia. It’s also a way to have a better quality of life and be able to communicate clearly with others. It’s worth consulting with an audiologist to try to improve your hearing, and in turn, hopefully also your cognitive functioning.  

To learn more and get started treating your hearing loss today, contact The Center for Audiology at this phone number: Houston: 713-255-0035 and Pearland: 713-800-5050.