4 Ways Hearing Loss Can Lead to Dementia
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, more than 48 million Americans with hearing loss, may have an increased risk of developing cognitive problems and even dementia. By the time many Americans reach their 70s, almost two-thirds of them will experience hearing loss. It can be shocking to discover that hearing loss can cause dementia, and you may be asking how hearing loss affects brain functionality. Here are some theories scientists have been exploring.
Pathways of the Brain
One of the common possibilities towards the causes contributing to cognitive decline is a physiological pathway being affected by hearing loss. Although this is still speculation, it isn’t entirely ruled out yet.
Surprisingly one of the elements associated with hearing degradation is referred to as a “cognitive load”, which is where the effort of continuously straining to understand causes the brain stress. Important brain resources that are normally reserved for memory are now being used to interpret incoming information from sounds that are difficult to translate.
Another factor which is currently being researched is the actual physical structure of the brain-based degradation effects seen through MRI scans. Brain imaging studies have shown that adults with hearing loss have less grey matter in the brain where it receives and processes incoming sounds from the ears. Other areas and certain structures can shrink when not given enough stimulation. The theory here is that if the brain receives clearer speech signals, it would be less susceptible to shrinkage.
Lastly, it appears that social isolation plays a role in the link between hearing loss and dementia. Individuals tend to isolate themselves when hearing becomes too difficult and find it easier to not communicate with the world around them. Without communication, being alone for extended periods of time has been recognized as a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline.
Research is always continuing, and technology is improving towards solving these issues with patients all over the world. Staying informed and up to date in the field of hearing health can give you an advantage. Visit our blog to always be in the know on everything related to hearing health.