While hearing loss often presents a host of emotional complications, such as feelings of frustration, research now ties hearing loss with additional health conditions. Recent research from Johns Hopkins drew a connection between varying levels of hearing impairment and diminished mental health. This included increased difficulty walking and dementia. Along with hearing loss, individuals demonstrated general brain function loss, resulting in forgetfulness, impaired thinking and fluctuations in mood or personality.
About the research
Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. led the study. It tracked and analysed 639 adults over 12 years. Brain scans showed degeneration occurred at a faster rate in those with hearing loss over those without. The study concluded that:
Individuals with mild hearing loss were two times as likely to have dementia.
Those with moderate hearing loss were three times as likely to have dementia.
Individuals with severe hearing loss were five times as likely to have dementia.
Why does hearing loss contribute to mental deterioration?
We don’t know for sure. However, medical practitioners believe that social isolation may play a role. Individuals with hearing loss tend to disconnect and withdraw from their social world. As a result they miss out on conversations and everyday interactions that stimulate the brain. Without the frequent mental stimulation of socializing, the brain may begin to undergo atrophy. Therefore, an individual’s diminished hearing impacts memory.
Additionally, the brain works harder to process surrounding sounds and signals to compensate for hearing loss. This increased exertion and mental multitasking may interfere with the neural connections needed to walk and move around.
Reducing risk factors
Hearing aids help individuals process sound and follow conversations. Data shows that even though millions of Americans have hearing loss, only one in seven uses a hearing aid. And, hearing aid users wait seven years before seeking audiological assistance. Despite common misconceptions, today’s hearing aids are inconspicuous, affordable and highly effective in combating hearing loss.
If you or someone you love exhibits signs of hearing impairment, we can help. Since hearing loss can impact memory and other aspects of brain function, it is important to have a hearing assessment. Contact us today to discuss if hearing aids or other services are right for you.