The Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

Hearing loss and dementia are both conditions which become more common as you get older, and recent research by John Hopkins Medicine and the National Institute of Ageing found that adults with hearing loss are “significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing”

Graph courtesy of Starkey Hearing Technologies, showing the likelihood of adults developing dementia with untreated hearing loss

About the Study

The researchers found volunteers whose hearing and cognitive abilities were tested in a different study between 1990 and 1994, then reexamined them every one or two years up until 2008. Volunteers who had hearing loss at the beginning of the study were more likely to have dementia by the end. Up to five times more likely, in fact, depending on the severity of their hearing loss.

Although researchers are still not sure about the exact connection between hearing loss and dementia, they believe there are several ways that hearing loss could lead to dementia.

It may even be a combination of the following three things:

When you constantly strain to hear and understand, the brain gets stressed out. The resources that would normally go into storing what’s being said in your memory are spent on understanding what’s being said in the first place.
Hearing loss may affect the structure of your brain in a way that contributes to cognitive problems. Brain imaging studies show that older adults with hearing loss have less grey matter in the part of their brain that receives and processes sounds from the ears. That’s because certain structures of brain cells can shrink when they don’t get enough stimulation.
If it’s hard to hear what people are saying and to follow conversations, you might prefer just to stay home instead of going out and socializing. But when you cut yourself off from your friends, family and your active life, you become less social and less engaged. When your brain doesn’t get enough stimuli throughout the day, you increase your risk of developing dementia.


Roughly 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and nearly 10 million new cases occur every year. Source: WHO

So how can you maintain your brain health?

Here are a few tips:

Keep On Learning – any new learning activity develops new neural connections in the brain, which may help you bypass any damage to the brain associated with dementia

Be Social – having conversations with people will stimulate your brain

Exercise – at least 30 minutes, five days a week – cardiovascular exercise is particularly beneficial

Eat Healthy – eat lots of fruits and vegetables, along with legumes, fish, olive oil, and nuts and seeds

But remember to also take good care of your hearing

Because it’s important to keep your brain healthy, it’s also important to keep your hearing healthy. So don’t let your hearing loss increase over time. If you suspect you have a hearing loss, get help. Start by taking a free online hearing test.

Hearing aids are a good way to treat your hearing loss if it’s low or moderate – depending on your specific type of hearing loss. If you have a severe or profound hearing loss, cochlear implants may be the best option for you.

A hearing care professional can help you figure out how you can prevent your hearing loss from worsening and keep your grey cells intact so contact us today to book an appointment!




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