Adults who have a hearing loss have a higher risk for Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders. The risk of dementia increases for those with a hearing loss greater than 25 dB. 36% of the risk of dementia was associated with hearing loss for study participants over the age of 60. People with moderate to severe hearing loss are up to 5 times as likely to develop dementia. Studies have indicated that older adults with hearing loss—especially men—are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, compared to those with normal hearing. Men with hearing loss were 69% more likely to develop dementia than those with no hearing impairment.
The risk rises as a person’s hearing loss worsens. People with mild hearing impairment are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal hearing. The risk increases three-fold for those with moderate hearing loss, and five-fold for those with severe impairment.
Hearing Loss and Dementia by the numbers
- People with a mild hearing loss (25dB) are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia as those with normal hearing
- People with a moderate hearing loss are three times as likely to develop dementia
- People with a severe hearing loss are five times as likely to develop dementia
- For every 10-decibel increase in hearing loss, the extra risk for dementia jumps by 20%. For people over the age of 60, 36% of their dementia risk is associated with hearing loss
Many people having only a mild hearing loss do not even realize it. There are hearing tests online which is a easy way to learn about your hearing, or you can get a hearing screening.
What is the connection between Alzheimer’s and Hearing Loss
Studies have suggested that hearing loss causes brain changes that raise the risk for dementia. When the “hearing” section of the brain grows inactive, it results in tissue loss and changes in brain structure—creating the first link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s.
Some studies have shown that the brains of people with hearing loss shrink—or atrophy—more quickly than the brains of people with normal hearing.
An “overwhelmed” brain creates the second link between hearing loss and dementia. When it is difficult to hear, the brain must work overtime just to understand what people are saying. Straining to hear all day, every day, depletes a person’s mental energy and steals brain power needed for other crucial functions like remembering, acting and thinking. This can further set the stage for dementia, Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.
Social Isolation and Hearing Loss
The third link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s is social isolation. The National Council on the Aging did a study of 2300 hearing paired adults and found that people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to experience loneliness, depression, worry, paranoia and anxiety. They are less likely to join organized or casual activities. When a person withdraws from life, their risk for dementia intensifies. The less we stimulate our brains by interacting with other people, places and things, and the less we use our brains to listen and hear, the more quickly our brains decline, putting us at greater risk for dementia.
Hearing aids can help prevent dementia
Studies have shown that hearing aids not only improve a person’s hearing, they also help preserve a person’s independence, mental abilities, emotional and physical health, and work, home, and social lives. A full, happy life keeps your brain active.
Hearing aids can help those having Alzheimer’s
If you know someone who is showing signs of dementia, help get them a hearing checked sooner, rather than later. Sometimes, undiagnosed hearing loss symptoms are thought to be Alzheimer’s symptoms when they really are not.
A hearing impairment makes it difficult to listen, reply, and respond to verbal cues. It can escalate feelings of confusion, paranoia and isolation.
Hearing aids can relieve Alzheimer’s symptoms. Hearing aids can slow the rate of memory decline and improve the quality of life for the person with Alzheimer’s.
Schedule an appointment for a free hearing screening.