Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Uncover the crucial connection between your hearing health and cognitive well-being.

As we age, it’s not uncommon to experience changes in our hearing. However, recent studies have discovered a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, suggesting that maintaining good hearing health is not just essential for communication but also for our overall cognitive well-being. In this blog, we will explore this link, discuss the research behind it, and provide some suggestions for maintaining your hearing health.

The Link Between Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Researchers have found that individuals with hearing loss are more likely to experience cognitive decline than those with normal hearing (Lin et al., 2013). This connection may be due to various factors, such as the cognitive load that hearing loss places on the brain, social isolation, and reduced stimulation of the auditory system (Fortunato et al., 2016).

Hearing loss can lead to an increased cognitive load on the brain, as it has to work harder to process sounds and understand speech. This increased cognitive load may contribute to cognitive decline over time. Furthermore, individuals with hearing loss may experience social isolation, as they struggle to communicate effectively. This lack of social interaction can also contribute to cognitive decline (Panza et al., 2018).

Research Findings

In a study conducted by Lin et al. (2013), researchers followed 1,984 older adults over six years and found that those with hearing loss had a higher risk of cognitive decline than those with normal hearing. Another study by Amieva et al. (2015) showed that individuals with untreated hearing loss experienced more significant cognitive decline over a 25-year period than those who had normal hearing or used hearing aids.

A more recent study (Jang et al. 2023) investigated the association between hearing loss, hearing aid use, and dementia risk in a large sample of participants. The findings revealed that people with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids had a 42% higher risk of dementia compared to those with normal hearing. However, the use of hearing aids was associated with a risk of dementia similar to that of people without hearing loss. The associations were observed in both all-cause dementia and cause-specific dementia subtypes, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and non-Alzheimer’s disease non-vascular dementia. The study highlighted that less than 11% of the association between hearing aid use and decreased all-cause dementia risk was mediated through improving psychosocial problems, indicating that direct effects or other unmeasured mechanisms of hearing aid use on dementia risk dominated.

These findings underscore the importance of addressing hearing loss across the life course to improve cognitive decline. Public health strategies are needed to raise awareness of hearing loss and the potential harm of untreated hearing impairment, increase accessibility to hearing aids by reducing cost, encouraging screening, and delivering potential interventions such as fitting hearing aids. Well-designed clinical trials are needed to assess the effect of hearing aid use on dementia risk and determine the role of different types of hearing aids and the length of hearing aid use for the prevention of dementia in various types of hearing impairment.

Maintaining Your Hearing Health

Considering the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, it is crucial to take steps to maintain your hearing health. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Have regular hearing check-ups: Early detection of hearing loss is vital to ensure that you receive the appropriate treatment, such as hearing aids, to minimize the impact on your cognitive health.
  2. Use hearing aids when recommended: If you have been diagnosed with hearing loss, using hearing aids can help reduce the cognitive load on your brain and improve your communication abilities.
  3. Stay socially engaged: Social interaction is essential for maintaining cognitive health. Make an effort to stay connected with friends, family, and community groups.
  4. Protect your ears from loud noises: Exposure to loud noises can cause damage to your hearing. Use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones when in noisy environments.
  5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: A balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep can all contribute to better overall health, including your hearing and cognitive health.

The connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline highlights the importance of maintaining good hearing health. By taking steps to protect your hearing and seeking treatment for hearing loss, you can help support your cognitive well-being as you age.

References

Jiang, F., Mishra, S. R., Shrestha, N., Ozaki, A., Virani, S. S., Bright, T., et al. (2023). Association between hearing aid use and all-cause and cause-specific dementia: an analysis of the UK Biobank cohort. The Lancet Public Health. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(23)00048-8

Amieva, H., Ouvrard, C., Giulioli, C., Meillon, C., Rullier, L., & Dartigues, J. F. (2015). Self-Reported Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-Year Study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 63(10), 2099-2104.

Fortunato, S., Forli, F., Guglielmi, V., De Corso, E., Paludetti, G., Berrettini, S., & Fetoni, A. R. (2016). A review of new insights on the association between hearing loss and cognitive decline in ageing. Acta Otorhinolaryngologica Italica, 36(3), 155-166.

Lin, F. R., Metter, E. J., O’Brien, R. J., Resnick, S. M., Zonderman, A. B., & Ferrucci, L. (2013). Hearing loss and incident dementia. Archives of Neurology, 68(2), 214-220.

Panza, F., Solfrizzi, V., Seripa, D., Imbimbo, B. P., Capozzo, R., Quaranta, N., … & Logroscino, G. (2018). Age-related hearing loss and cognitive decline in older adults. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 30(9), 1037-1046.

By taking into account the evidence from these studies, it becomes clear that maintaining good hearing health is crucial for cognitive well-being. It is essential to have regular hearing check-ups, use hearing aids when recommended, stay socially engaged, protect your ears from loud noises, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. By doing so, you can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and support your overall health as you age.

Article by Adam Bostock

Customer Service

Have any questions?

If you are concerned about your hearing, or think you may have hearing loss, please get in touch to speak with one of our team.

Book with us today

If you would like to know more about how we can help you with your hearing, please get in touch and one of our team will be happy to discuss your needs, without obligation.

Alto Hearing & Tinnitus Specialists,
1 Shambles Court,
Bell Street,
Lutterworth,
LE17 4DW

Please read our Covid guidance for the latest information on how we are keeping our staff and customers safe.

Google Rating
5.0
Based on 302 reviews
js_loader

Online booking system

To book your AltoScreen or ear wax removal appointment, please use our online booking system.

Enquiry form

For any other appointment or hearing consultation, please complete our enquiry form and one of our team will respond as soon as possible.

Please note that our services are only available to those aged 19 or over.

Customer reviews

Read what our customers have to say about our service.