Many people don’t realize the far-reaching health implications of untreated hearing loss.

Research shows that people with moderate to severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia than peers with normal hearing. Even individuals with mild hearing loss are nearly twice as likely to experience cognitive decline and dementia than those without a hearing impairment, while the risks are three-fold for people with moderate hearing loss.

A study at Johns Hopkins University tracked brain changes in 126 people over the course of a decade. Each participant completed a hearing test, and the results revealed 75 people with normal hearing, and 51 people with impaired hearing of at least a 25-decibel loss.

What they learned:

  • Hearing impaired participants at the start of the study had accelerated rates of brain tissue loss when compared to those with normal hearing.
  • Those with impaired hearing lost more than one additional cubic centimeter of brain tissue each year when compared to participants with normal hearing.
  • The impaired hearing group also had significantly more shrinkage in regions of the brain responsible for processing sound and speech.

Further studies have shown how hearing loss can lead to a brain overload situation, where the brain works harder to simply understand speech. Over time, this extra work drains the brain of the mental energy needed for other important functions such as thinking and remembering, laying the groundwork for Alzheimer’s or dementia to develop.

There is also a socialization component of untreated hearing loss. If people can’t communicate effectively with others, they tend to withdraw from relationships and can end up feeling isolated, anxious and depressed.

Fortunately, research also shows that treating hearing loss with hearing aids can slow cognitive decline and help prevent dementia. By improving listening experiences, hearing aids can also improve an individual’s social capabilities, independence, emotional health and overall quality of life.

Early intervention is important for treating hearing loss. By scheduling a hearing exam at one of our audiology offices in northern Iowa, you can take action against dementia and preventable brain tissue loss. Contact us today to find out how.