This is a question that people with hearing loss or with families experiencing hearing loss often ask. We understand because there seems to be a connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease, such as when an older person with Alzheimer’s disease also diagnosed with hearing loss.
Studies Suggest a Link
Researchers have looked into the possible connections between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease, a disease characterized by the decline in cognitive function and memory capability. Johns Hopkins University researchers, for example, have conducted several long-term tracking studies abut it
In one study, they monitored senior people over several years to determine which of them developed Alzheimer’s including their rate of progression. Their studies show that seniors with hearing loss have higher rates of dementia, a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. They also found that the greater the hearing loss, the higher the risk for dementia.
The bottom line: Yes, indeed, there seems to be a strong link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
Theories Behind the Connection
But before you jump to conclusions, perhaps think of the worst scenarios, keep in mind that these studies only show the connection. But these studies don’t suggest that progressive hearing loss can result in dementia, far from it!
Researchers propose a few theories in explaining the link between these two conditions.
The brain has an area that controls the processing of auditory information and, thus, of the sense of hearing. But when its function is compromised or strained, such as in hearing loss, it causes a restructuring in the brain. In turn, it can affect cognitive function.
With hearing loss, your brain works harder to make sense of the words being said by other people. You spend more mental energy and work on conversations so much so that your brain goes into cognitive overload. As such, your brain doesn’t have enough energy for other cognitive functions including memory.
Unfortunately, social isolation has serious impact on physical and mental health. When you have untreated hearing loss, you’re more likely to feel isolated from everyday conversations. You can feel alienated and alone, which can adversely affect your cognitive function.
These are, of course, just theories at present. But these provide reasonable explanations for the link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
What do these studies mean for people with hearing loss and with Alzheimer’s disease? We suggest being rational about it, first and foremost! Just because you have hearing loss doesn’t automatically mean that you will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
You may want instead to seek medical intervention for your hearing loss. You may or may not need hearing aids but it pays to know the reasons for your hearing loss and what can be done about it.
If you think your family needs a hearing aid, make sure to get a hearing aid prescription. For more details of our hearing test & assessment, and hearing aid services, please contact HK Hearing & Speech Centre.
HK Hearing & Speech Centre
Specialist of Hearing test & assessment,
and Hearing Aid Prescription