Fast facts – hearing loss and cognitive decline
- The prevalence of hearing loss doubles for every decade of life.
- A 2013 study suggested that people with hearing loss had a 30-40% greater risk of cognitive decline (i.e. issues with memory, language and decision making) than people without hearing loss.
- Cognitive decline, isolation and depression are recognised risk factors in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re struggling to hear properly but are avoiding having a hearing test and getting hearing aids, you might be interested to know that a range of recent studies show that untreated hearing loss can lead to a greater risk of problems in later life related to cognitive issues – that is, memory, language, thinking and judgment.
How are hearing loss and cognitive decline linked?
You’ll probably know from your own experience that it can be exhausting to keep up with conversations that you’re not able to hear fully. Many people with hearing problems end up opting out of social situations, becoming increasingly isolated and experiencing a reduced quality of life.
Researchers in one study found that straining to hear conversations overtaxed parts of the brain, and this led to changes in brain structure and function. Brain scans showed diminished grey matter in people with hearing loss over the course of a six-year period. And there were noted brain tissue losses in regions associated with spoken language and semantic memory – the same areas of the brain associated with early Alzheimer’s.
Take control of your hearing health
Hearing loss becomes more common the older we get, to the point that it’s usually considered an inevitable part of ageing. Common it may be, but these recent studies show that we need to take hearing loss far more seriously and be more proactive in treating and managing it if we are to promote longer term health.
The good news is that research shows that adults with hearing loss who actively use hearing aids can reduce the risk of cognitive decline associated with their hearing loss. Using hearing aids enables you to hear clearly, even in noisy settings. And because your brain doesn’t need to work so hard, you stay socially engaged – which is one of the primary ways to stimulate your brain.
What to do next
If you’re experiencing hearing problems it’s time to focus on your hearing health, and maximise your chances of keeping well into the future. Call The Hearing Clinic today to book your hearing test and find out how we can help.