The link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease

Adults with hearing loss have a higher risk for Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders

The risk of dementia increases for those with a hearing loss greater than 25 dB. 

36 %

of the risk of dementia was associated with hearing loss for study participants over the age of

60 years

Individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss are up to 5 times as likely to develop dementia.

According to several major studies, older adults with hearing loss—especially men— are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and dementia, compared to those with normal hearing. Men with hearing loss were 69 percent more likely to develop dementia than those with no hearing impairment.

The risk escalates as a person's hearing loss worsens. Those with mild hearing impairment are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal hearing. The risk increases three-fold for those with moderate hearing loss, and five-fold for those with severe impairment.

Hearing loss and dementia by the numbers

  • People with a mild (25-decibel) hearing loss are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia as those with normal hearing

  • People with a moderate hearing loss are three times as likely to develop dementia

  • People with a severe loss are five times as likely to develop dementia

  • For every 10-decibel increase in hearing loss, the extra risk for dementia jumps by 20 percent. For people over the age of 60, 36 percent of their dementia risk is associated with hearing loss.

Many people who have mild hearing loss do not even realize it. Start with the online hearing test—it’s a fast, easy way to learn about your hearing.

Take our free online hearing test

 

Hearing loss linked to Alzheimer’s—what’s the connection?

Studies suggest that hearing loss causes brain changes that raise the risk for dementia. 

Brain shrinkage — When the “hearing” section of the brain grows inactive, it results in tissue loss and changes in brain structure—creating the first link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Studies show that the brains of people with hearing loss shrink—or atrophy—more quickly than the brains of people with normal hearing.

Brain overload — An “overwhelmed” brain creates the second link between hearing loss and dementia. When it’s difficult to hear, the brain must work overtime just to understand what people are saying. Straining to hear all day, every day, depletes a person’s mental energy and steals brain power needed for other crucial functions like remembering, thinking, and acting. This can further set the stage for Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive disorders. 

Hearing loss and social isolation

The third link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s is social isolation. A study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) of 2,300 hearing impaired adults found that people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to experience loneliness, worry, depression, anxiety, and paranoia—and are less likely to join organized and casual social activities. When a person withdraws from life, their risk for dementia intensifies. 

In short, the less we stimulate our brains by interacting with other people, places, and things—and the less we use our brains to hear and listen—the more quickly our brains decline, putting us at greater risk for dementia.

Hearing aids can help prevent dementia.

Numerous studies show that hearing aids not only improve a person’s hearing—they also help preserve a person’s independence, mental abilities, emotional and physical health, and work, home, and social lives. A full, happy life keeps your brain active.

Early identification and treatment of a potential hearing loss helps minimize risks later in life. 

Wondering what a hearing test is like? Find out what to expect here.

Hearing aids can help those who have Alzheimer’s.

If a loved one is showing signs of dementia, help them get their hearing checked sooner than later. Sometimes, undiagnosed hearing loss symptoms are thought to be Alzheimer’s symptoms when they’re really not.

For those with Alzheimer’s, hearing loss can aggravate symptoms. A hearing impairment makes it difficult to listen, reply, and respond to verbal cues. It escalates feelings of confusion, isolation, and paranoia.

Hearing aids can help relieve Alzheimer’s symptoms, and several styles are easy for a person with cognitive impairment to use. An American Journal of Epidemiology study found that hearing aids slowed the rate of memory decline and improved the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients with hearing loss.

It’s important to find out the facts. Partner with the hearing care experts at Beltone to understand all the options. 

Find a hearing care partner!

Keep your edge well into old age. Catch and treat hearing loss early to slow or stop its progression.

Instead of wondering about how a potential hearing loss might affect you, find out where you or a loved one stands. Get a free comprehensive hearing screening from one of our hearing care professionals.

 
 

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