September is World Alzheimer’s Month! This international campaign focuses on raising awareness on dementia and ways brain health can be prioritized. Launched in 2012 by Alzheimer’s Disease International, this global campaign encourages people to get involved and learn more about dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses numerous medical conditions that are characterized by cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s is the most common type, accounting for 60%-70% of the dementia people experience today.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 6.2 million people in the U.S. live with Alzheimer’s. This number is expected to more than double by 2050, reaching 12.7 million. There are no cures for Alzheimer’s so extensive research focuses on identifying factors that can be modified to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Numerous studies show that hearing loss is a risk factor and that treating hearing loss can help protect brain health.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline
Substantial research shows that there is a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Studies reveal that hearing loss increases the risk of cognitive decline, this includes a major study that was published in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association in 2019. This study involved researchers assessing the hearing and cognitive capacities of 10,107 people over an 8-year period. Researchers found that compared to people without hearing loss, cognitive decline was:
- 30% higher for people with mild hearing loss
- 42% higher for people with moderate hearing loss
- 54% higher for people with severe hearing loss
These findings reveal two important patterns: there is a significant correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline and the degree of hearing impairment can increase the risk. Experts suggest that hearing loss can impact brain health in several ways including:
- Brain atrophy: the parts of the brain that process auditory information become less active because less auditory information is being received. This can cause these areas to shrink and reorganize, contributing to cognitive decline.
- Cognitive overload: the brain has to work harder to search for and process auditory signals. The extra effort and energy expended to process sound can overload the brain, impacting cognitive functions.
- Social withdrawal: social withdrawal is a common symptom of hearing loss. This involves retreating from social activities and spending time with others which results in less stimulation for the brain.
These effects of hearing loss can impact cognitive functions and brain health. Fortunately, treating hearing loss can prevent these outcomes and protect brain health in important ways.
Hearing Aid Improve Brain Health
Treating hearing loss offers countless benefits that transform overall health and wellness. Treatment alleviates hearing loss symptoms while also increasing capacity to hear and process sound. This strengthens communication, improves relationships, enriches social life, and supports brain health. Studies show that hearing aids, the most common treatment for hearing loss, improves brain health. This includes the following studies:
- 2020 Study Published in Science Daily: researchers assessed the impact of hearing aids on cognitive functions for nearly 100 participants (ages 62-82) before the use of hearing aids and 18 months after wearing hearing aids. Researchers found that, “97% of participants showed either clinically significant improvement or stability in executive function (mental ability to plan, organize information and initiate tasks)”.
- 2018 Study Published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society: this study involved collecting and examining data on the cognitive capacities of over 2,000 people who wear hearing aids. Evaluating results from memory tests revealed that people wearing hearing aids had higher scores.
These studies are among many that show that hearing aids improve cognitive functions and brain health. This can contribute to preventing cognitive decline and associated conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Prioritize Your Hearing Health Today
World Alzheimer’s Month is a great reminder to privatize your hearing health which can help prevent the development of dementia. You can do this by scheduling an appointment to have your hearing assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures your hearing capacities and establishes your hearing health profile. Identifying any hearing needs and meeting those needs early can protect your hearing as well as overall health. We look forward to supporting your hearing health!