“Number of people have said to me, after hearing your thinking, their mind becomes much more happier.”
– Dalai Lama
The commonness of hearing loss in old age has made it a fact of common knowledge. It is so prevalent that the rate of hearing loss in adults over 70 stands at almost two-thirds of the age group. That means that 2 out of every 3 people over 70 you meet, suffer from impaired hearing.
What’s less known, though, is the role that hearing loss has on your memory and its connection to dementia. In a study done by the American Medical Association, hearing loss was related to “more than one-third of the risk of incident all-cause dementia,” in participants over 60. Those are pretty high numbers and makes the condition quite worrisome.
This is just one of many studies, highlighting the hearing-memory connection and its effects.
Why Would Poor Hearing Lead to Memory Issues?
Despite the numerous studies documenting the connection between hearing loss and poor memory, we don’t have a scientifically proven explanation for the correlation.
Howard LeWine, M.D., Chief Medical Editor, of Harvard Health Publishing, suggests three explanations for this phenomenon:
- Social isolation – less hearing can lead to less social activity, which can lead to cognitive impairment and dementia.
- Less brain stimulation – The brain is less stimulated when it doesn’t process sound, as it used to. This can cause it to use thinking skills less frequently and lose these skills. This affects thinking and memory.
- Energy concentration – the brain concentrates its efforts on taking in what’s being heard and, therefore, has less energy left over for thinking.
Other possibilities include:
- An over-diagnosis of dementia in people suffering from hearing loss.
- An over-diagnosis of poor hearing in people suffering from dementia.
- A common neuropathologic process that causes both conditions.
Will Treating Hearing Loss Improve Memory?
If hearing loss is connected to dementia, it stands to reason that treating hearing loss might improve cognitive functions. Is this the case?
Few studies tested this idea, says Alycia Gordan, however, they “do provide considerable hope.”
Based on what’s known, you should definitely take hearing issues seriously. Proper auditory care may mean a better functioning brain.
Do you know anyone suffering from hearing loss? What would you want to let them know?
Please share in the comments below.