Dementia and hearing loss… is there any connection

February 17, 2018 by Raji Parangad

Dementia (memory loss,confusion,difficulty in thinking and decision making,decline in everyday skills, forgetting words to communicate etc) and hearing loss(misunderstanding what people say,asking repeats,loud TV,not hearing phone ring,direction of noise source,having to concentrate while listening etc). For number of years it was never thought of that there perhaps could be a  correlation between these two- dementia and hearing loss. But newer research shows concrete evidence pointing to the fact that if you have hearing loss rectify that earlier to prevent risk of developing cognitive issues and dementia. there are essentially four theories how hearing loss can lead to dementia :

  1. common physiological pathway that contribute to both hearing loss and dementia.
  2. Cognitive overload- constant strain to understand conversation stresses the brain. Speech encoding resources in brain are used elsewhere eventually reducing brain resilience.
  3. Untreated hearing loss effects brain structure in a  way that contribute to cognitive problems. Imaging studies now prove the change / shrinkage in brain cell. It is worth noting that brain cell changes start long before dementia is officially diagnosed. Rectifying hearing loss using hearing aids may allow the brain structures to recover previous size and function. Studies are ongoing.
  4. Social isolation. If one has to constantly make guesses and nod occasionally hoping that wasn’t a  question that was asked can be exhausting. Human nature- what do you do. One then avoids being in social scenario, go out to restaurant for a  nice meal, family is over for a  barbecue you decide to read the newspaper,  avoid movies etc. This social isolation  leads to cognitive decline and dementia.It is evident that proper diagnosis and management of hearing loss including hearing aids will educe the risk and impact of dementia and also associated co morbidity such as falls and depression. Newer studies point to the fact that if a cognitive reserve is built earlier meaning if brains networks are strengthened , it could continue to function in later life regardless of the damage. Lifestyle plays an important role. No smoking,keeping healthy,sleep hygiene,  exercise,treating high BP, diabetes and cardio vascular diseases.

    If you are worried about hearing loss or dementia, it is best to speak to your GP who will then refer you to ‘My Audiologist’ clinic  for further investigation. Raji Parangad works closely with local GP’s, ENT’s and Neurologists for best possible outcome for our patients.  Call My Audiologist on 07 34465845 today to make an appointment to get your hearing checked

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