- Hearing Aid Myths - February 16, 2024
- Exploring the Latest Innovations in Hearing Aid Technology - February 6, 2024
- Hearing Aids and Mental Health - January 27, 2024
September is when we turn our attention to Alzheimer’s, a terrible brain disorder with unknown causes. Even though more and more research is being done on this condition, scientists still don’t know what causes many of its symptoms. People are aware of the disorder’s symptoms and how it worsens over time. Still, we haven’t found a cure or a way to protect ourselves and our loved ones from getting the disease.
Even though Alzheimer’s is a mysterious disease, a surprising link between hearing loss and cognitive function may help us understand how it works. After talking about what we know about this link, we can put together the pieces of the puzzle that show how hearing loss is related to cognitive problems, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
Piecing together hearing loss and brain function
We know that cognition takes place in the brain, but we also know that the thinking mind uses information from the senses to figure out what’s happening. The brain gets information from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin on a fundamental level. This information is then turned into thoughts.
You might think that if one of these organs stopped working, the brain might react in strange ways because it wouldn’t be getting enough information. For example, many people say that having trouble seeing makes them hear better and vice versa.
When someone has trouble hearing, the brain may change fundamentally to compensate for what it can’t hear. But this link between what we hear and think may go even more profound. Changes happen in the structure of the brain’s hearing function, including how the different parts of the brain work together to form thoughts.
From cognitive function to cognitive failure
It is incredible how well the brain works but not being able to put sounds together to form words can also be bad for other parts of cognitive functioning. When the brain can’t make sense of the information, it gets from the senses and has to rearrange the pieces as best it can. You can imagine how confusing it would be to hear bits and pieces of sound that don’t sound like whole words.
The cognitive load is very high when the brain scrambles to gather thoughts from bits of sound. Statistics show that there is a clear link between hearing loss and dementia. Dr. Frank Lin, a well-known scientist at Johns Hopkins, did a study that found people with hearing loss were 24% more likely to have Alzheimer’s. He also found that the more people lost their hearing, the more likely they had Alzheimer’s. In other studies, the rate of decline was also linked. People who had trouble hearing tended to lose their mental abilities more quickly.
Adding hearing loss to the list of symptoms of Alzheimer’s
With this apparent link between hearing loss and dementia, many people wonder if hearing loss could cause Alzheimer’s that we don’t know yet.
So far, research has shown that many people have both hearing loss and cognitive failure. However, this is not enough to say that hearing loss causes cognitive failure. Even though Alzheimer’s research hasn’t shown that the overloaded cognitive scramble that people with hearing loss experience is enough to cause dementia, this mechanism would explain why the two conditions are statistically different.
Alzheimer’s disease is the cause of 60–80% of dementia, but it is not the only type. New research can focus on Alzheimer’s to see if there is a strong link between it and hearing loss. One goal of new research will be to separate Alzheimer’s from other forms of dementia to see if the link is still as strong.
Can you prevent Alzheimer’s by treating your hearing loss?
We don’t know if hearing loss is a cause of Alzheimer’s, but getting help for hearing loss can only help the mind work better. By getting your hearing checked and looking for help, you might be able to relax in more than one way. Talk to us about your options by booking an appointment with us today!