Does Hearing Loss Lead to Dementia?

Your hearing impacts how your brain works. Studies have shown a connection between hearing loss and an increased risk for developing dementia.

Hearing Loss Alters Brain Shape

As we age, the connections between our brain cells weaken. That degeneration is exacerbated by hearing loss because the brain’s auditory center is no longer receiving input.

The lack of stimulation causes that portion of the brain to atrophy and shrink. Less gray matter in the brain’s auditory center means there’s less “muscle” to do the necessary work of processing sound stimuli. It’s that brain shrinkage that increases the likelihood of dementia and other memory loss conditions.

How the Brain Overcompensates

When you have hearing loss your ears don’t send enough information to your brain. That lack of activity requires your brain to pull energy from other areas to make up for the loss of auditory processing. Parts of the brain not usually associated with sound interpretation get rewired to bridge the gap.

Your brain may become more easily fatigued since it’s putting in extra effort to compensate for the lack of auditory function. That means your brain can’t put energy toward forming and retaining memories.

Hearing Loss Affects Social Isolation

Hearing loss can cause social withdrawal. It’s common for people with hearing loss to feel embarrassed by the need to ask others to repeat themselves, and that can limit their interactions. Being in noisy environments, such as restaurants, also causes mental fatigue because your brain tries to process lots of sounds at once.

Social isolation means fewer conversations that would otherwise produce the auditory stimulation your brain needs to stay in shape. That creates a vicious cycle; your lack of social interaction will continue to affect your brain’s ability to process sound, which may make you withdraw more.

Hearing Aids May Help Lower Your Risk for Cognitive Impairment

While the jury is still out on whether hearing aids reverse cognitive decline, there is plenty of evidence to suggest they can delay the onset of dementia.

Seeking treatment for your hearing loss gives your brain more of the workout it needs by:

  • Reintroducing sound stimulation to the auditory center.
  • Keeping you aware of your surroundings.
  • Easing tinnitus
  • Reducing your brain’s need to overcompensate for the auditory cortex.

When you wear hearing aids, your brain can compartmentalize its duties again. That means the parts of your brain responsible for learning and forming short- and long-term memories aren’t working so hard to process sound.

The team at Audio Help Hearing Centers is committed to helping you preserve your hearing and reducing your risk of developing dementia. Contact us online or call 888-832-9966 to schedule your appointment.