Sep 22, 2022
September is World Alzheimer's Month. More than 50 million people worldwide have dementia.1 Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia. While dementia affects mostly older adults, it is not a normal part of aging.
What is often thought of as a normal part of aging is hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is the gradual loss of hearing in both ears. It's a common problem linked to aging; one in 3 adults over age 65 has hearing loss.2
We hear with our brains
It has recently been revealed that there is a correlation between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Most people don't realize that we hear with our brains, not with our ears. Hearing helps keep your brain active and stimulated which, in turn, helps to keep it healthy. When you have untreated hearing loss, your brain cells (neurons) are less active. This is known as "cognitive decline." A reduction in brain activity makes you more likely to develop a decline in your cognitive abilities, also known as dementia or Alzheimer's disease. In addition, untreated hearing loss can cause cognitive decline earlier than it would in a person with normal hearing.3
Untreated hearing loss
Undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss can lead to lowered mental stimulation, as your brain is not working to identify different sounds and nuances. The portion of your brain responsible for transmitting sound becomes weaker, making memory loss and cognitive decline more likely.
Reducing the risk of dementia
In 2020, a report by the Lancet Commission, entitled Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, found that there are 12 modifiable risk factors from childhood through late in life that could delay or prevent 40% of dementia cases. These lifestyle factors can be adjusted to reduce one's risk of developing dementia. These modifiable risk factors include:
- hearing loss
- less education
- traumatic brain injury
- social isolation
- physical inactivity
- air pollution
Among these 12 risk factors, untreated hearing loss in midlife is the largest modifiable risk factor for dementia. The dementia risk varies based on the level of hearing loss.
- Mild hearing loss doubles the risk of dementia
- Moderate hearing loss triples the risk
- Severe hearing impairment increases dementia risk by up to 5 times that of those who do not have hearing impairment4
The study recommends the use of hearing aids for those with hearing loss to help protect against cognitive decline. Hearing aids support your brain function by helping you to process sounds that stimulate the brain.
By addressing hearing loss with hearing aids, you will be connected to the world around you and confidently participate in social gatherings and activities.
HearingLife's hearing care experts can provide you with a complimentary hearing assessment* and personalized, custom solutions to meet your hearing and budgetary needs.
1 World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia
2 www.hopkinsmedicine.org › health › presbycusis
3 Wei et al. 2017, Hearing Impairment, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Dementia: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies.
4 Lin FR, Metter EJ, O'Brien RJ, Resnick SM, Zonderman AB, Ferrucci L. Hearing loss and incident dementia. Arch Neurol. 2011;68(2):214–220. doi: 68/2/214 [pii] 10.1001/archneurol.2010.362.