Hearing loss and cognitive decline


By Dr. Kylie Young

Beltone Hearing & Audiology

Age-related hearing loss is rising amongst today’s population and is significantly undertreated. About 68% of adults over the age of 70 have hearing loss, but only 20% of this population actually wear hearing aids. This is alarming considering the data shows a high association between hearing loss and cognitive decline. The longer a hearing loss goes untreated, the rate of developing dementia and Alzthemizer’s is significantly higher. Studies show age related hearing loss is the largest risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. The more severe a hearing loss becomes, the rate or severity of dementia also increases.

Untreated hearing loss and the development of dementia and Alzthemizer’s have been studied for numerous years, however, a more recent study revealed that individuals with normal thresholds and even a mild hearing loss show signs of memory loss as we age. This study provides evidence that hearing loss and cognitive decline begins early on, even when “normal” hearing is recorded. Age-related hearing loss can cause changes in our brain structure, for example, shrinking of the temporal lobe, which increases the risk of cognitive decline. When individuals are straining to hear and understand speech because a hearing loss is present, it can cause cognitive exhaustion.

One of the first signs of hearing loss and cognitive exhaustion is when individuals notice that they can hear others talking, but cannot distinguish what is being said, especially in noisy environments. Hearing loss is something that happens so gradually that we do not always notice it. We not only need our ears to hear, but we need our brain to decipher speech. When our brain can no longer detect speech, for example, when a hearing loss is present, it cannot process sound correctly. When our brain can no longer detect sound correctly, we can never restore this function; it’s a use it or lose it mechanism. Hearing loss can get to a point where a hearing aid can no longer be beneficial.

In order to prevent further hearing loss and cognitive decline, treatment must be started early on. The first step is simply to have a hearing evaluation completed. If you or someone you know needs their hearing evaluated, contact our office at 937-548-4242 to get started today. Dr. Kylie Young, Beltone Hearing & Audiology, is currently accepting new patients at the Greenville, Eaton, and Celina offices.

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