The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

November 7, 2018

About 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, making it one of the more common ailments in the United States. In fact, by the time Americans hit their seventies, more than two thirds of them have hearing issues.

According to studies by the Hearing Loss Association of America, hearing loss may also increase the risk of dementia and other cognitive problems. This means that what is often considered an inconvenient yet otherwise inconsequential part of aging may not be so inconsequential after all.

There is a silver lining to this news, though—what it means is that if there is an actual link between dementia and hearing loss in Fairbanks, AK, as has been indicated in several recent studies by reputable researchers, this means there is also the possibility that treating hearing loss more aggressively in its early phases could also help prevent or stave off dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.

How does hearing loss result in dementia?

Researchers are exploring a wide variety of theories about why this link potentially exists between hearing and dementia, but have not come to any solid conclusions yet.However, there are some theories that have gained traction. Here are a few examples of some of the possible ways hearing loss can lead to dementia in Fairbanks, AK:

Common physiological pathways: The possibility that makes the most sense to researchers is that there is some sort of physiological pathway that hearing loss and dementia have in common. Someresearchers have focused on high blood pressure being that common pathway, but there are other factors that are associated with both conditions that could potentially be the cause.

Cognitive load: Another strong possibility is the idea of “cognitive load,” that being that the constant strain to understand what other people are saying or what noises one is hearing causes an extra amount of stress on the brain. This explanation makes sense intuitively, but there is not a whole lot of research yet to back it up. Some researchers have documented effects of cognitive load on a short-term basis, but it’s difficult to say whether years of cognitive load can have a substantial impact on the brain’s strength and resilience.

Brain structure: There’s also the possibility that hearing loss somehow affects or alters brain structure in such a way that it causes, at least in part, cognitive problems. Brain imaging studies show older adults who suffer from hearing loss have less gray matter in the area of the brain that processes sounds, which could be an important finding.

Social isolation: Being hard of hearing tends to lead people to isolate themselves from other groups. People who have a hard time conversing with or understanding others are less likely to want to socialize, and social isolation has always been a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline.

These are just a few examples of some of the factors that could be part of the link between dementia and hearing loss. For more information about some of the research being done on the subject, or to learn more about treatment for hearing loss, including hearing aids in Fairbanks, AK, contact Northland Hearing Services today.

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