Connection Between Untreated Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

Matters of the brain are on our mind this month. That’s because it’s Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month. But the big question is, could untreated hearing loss lead to cognitive decline? If so, what can you do to protect yourself?

Many studies have looked into this topic, including this Johns Hopkins study which indicated that the more severe your hearing loss is, the greater your risk for developing dementia.

Cognitive decline describes symptoms such as confusion, clumsiness, memory problems and impaired judgment. These may be early warning signs of conditions such as dementia which affects problem solving, language, perception, thinking and memory. There are many types of dementia, but most cases are caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The concerning fact is that often by the time these symptoms emerge, the damage is already done.

Why is Hearing Loss Connected to Cognitive Decline?

Hearing loss can have an impact on the brain in many ways.

  • Social isolation is linked with an increase in cognitive decline due to a reduction in the amount and quality of brain stimulation. Many with untreated hearing loss will start to avoid social environments and withdraw from situations that challenge their ability to hear.
  • A study of MRI scans has shown that brain volume can decline faster in individuals with hearing loss. A significant correlation between cognitive impairment and hearing loss was identified. This may be associated with how sound is decoded differently in the brain as compared to those with normal hearing.
  • The repeated and often intense concentration required to hear can put extra stress and strain upon cognitive function. Over a prolonged period, this could be fatiguing and drain the energy reserves of the brain, possibly resulting in memory issues.

Looking after your hearing can help to protect your brain. Get started with our hearing loss prevention guide. If you suspect any changes to your baseline hearing, do not delay booking in a hearing assessment with the hearing care specialists at HearingLife (formerly Family Audiology). Call our team today on 607-323-4061, or click here to request an appointment online. We can help you take the first steps into treating any hearing loss and therefore protecting your brain.

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