The Relationship Between Untreated Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Brock Sturlaugson
by Dr. Brock Sturlaugson

In recent years studies on the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive impairment are only becoming more and more common. Each one showing a link that an untreated hearing loss can lead to accelerated mental deterioration, leading to an increase in chances of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.Alzheimer's and hearing loss - hearing rehab center-min

Even mild hearing losses can have a negative impact on brain health. American researchers have proven that the brain reorganizes itself when ones hearing fails. The brain changes with even the slightest hearing loss. Through scans, researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the US have found that our brain changes if we have a hearing loss. The research was carried out by, among others, professor Anu Sharma, Dept. of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences Institute of Cognitive Science Center for Neuroscience University of Colorado at Boulder.

Now a large Australian study has also found that there is a strong connection between hearing loss and dementia. A study among nearly 38,000 older Australian men found a 69% increased risk of dementia for those who report having a hearing loss.

How can hearing aids help?

With so much emphasis on the cost of hearing aids being a limiting factor for patients seeking treatment, the cost associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s far exceeds that of any modern-day hearing aid! The hope is that we can intervene as professionals early on, limiting the effects of the hearing loss on brain health.

A large French scientific study, which has followed nearly 3,800 people for a 25-years period, has found that seniors and elderly people who say that they have a hearing loss and do not use hearing aids are at a much higher risk of dementia. The study also found that those who used hearing aids eliminated the increased risk of dementia. For people using hearing aids, there was no higher risk compared to people reporting no hearing loss, according to the study.

Early intervention is key!

One of the most important facets of treating conditions of mental deterioration and cognitive decline is being able to identify it early. When a significant hearing loss is diagnosed, it can alert specialists to a potential threat and begin to monitor an individual’s neural behavior sooner rather than later.

Hearing loss in older adults may be preventable and can be addressed with current technology such as digital hearing aids and cochlear implants. As previously stated, early intervention is going to be key.

As the breadth of research continues to grow, it falls on the professionals to inform patients of the risks associated with untreated hearing loss. Hearing health is something that should be discussed openly and often, especially when dealing with an aging population.

If you would like to learn more about the connection between hearing loss and cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s, please reach out to a Hearing Rehab Center professional. If you or a loved one would like to get a free hearing examination, just contact one of our local Colorado offices!

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