June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and in honor of that we are discussing the relationship between untreated hearing loss and Alzheimer’s Disease. Many people think that hearing loss can’t affect your health in any other way, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. Because hearing is actually a function of the brain, the brain can be negatively affected when you can’t hear properly because it works overtime trying to process sounds.
Hearing loss has some obvious consequences when left untreated. You might be aware of the social impact it causes, but it also can result in some more severe problems including dementia. Hearing is processed in the brain, not the ears. As a result, your brain is affected when you have a hearing impairment. Research from John Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging shows that when you have hearing loss, the longer it goes untreated, the more chance you have of your brain forgetting how to interpret sounds and speech. Several different studies over the past several years have all pointed to the same results. In each study, those participants who had hearing loss had higher rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. One study showed that people with hearing loss had a 24% higher chance of having Alzheimer’s. Another study showed that the more profound the hearing loss was, the greater the chance of developing dementia. To be clear, the hearing loss itself isn’t what is causing dementia or Alzheimer’s. Researchers’ theories as to the link include:
- Change in the Brain Functions – auditory processing has to work differently which causes a strain on the brain and can result in a change to the brain structure.
- Cognitive Load – When your brain has to work harder to understand sounds, it has less capacity to focus on memory and other cognitive functions.
- Social Isolation – One of the side effects of hearing loss are feelings of isolation and loneliness. This can have serious consequences when it comes to mental health.
- Possible Unknown Connected Cause – There is so much we don’t know about the human brain and therefore, ongoing research is needed to examine if there is a condition that might be causing both hearing loss and Alzheimer’s.
Consult with the Hearing Experts at Kenwood Hearing Center
Have questions about hearing loss? We are here to help! If you are not hearing as well as you used to, please contact us today and schedule an appointment. Don’t wait until it’s too late! The experts at Kenwood Hearing Center are here for you to help you with not only hearing loss, but your overall ear health.