Seeking Hearing Loss Treatment Could Help Prevent or Delay Dementia

Seeking Hearing Loss Treatment Could Help Prevent or Delay Dementia

In Dementia & Alzheimer's by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

It’s common to become forgetful as we grow old. In our mid-40s to 50 our cognitive function starts to slow down a bit. However, if you find yourself becoming increasingly forgetful or having issues completing processes that you’ve done for years, it could signal dementia. Dementia is a neurodegenerative condition that affects two or more brain functions such as your thinking, memory, or language. 

It is estimated that approximately 24 million people have dementia today, with 4·6 million new cases of dementia every year (one new case every 7 seconds). Even more alarming is that these numbers are projected to double in the next 20 years, affecting an estimated 81·1 million by 2040. To slow the prevalence of dementia, it’s important to focus on prevention. Many factors cannot be modified which heighten your risks such as age or family history. However, there are several factors that you can change throughout a lifetime that lower your risk. One of those risk factors is treating your hearing loss.


Hearing loss treatment: one of 12 ways to minimize the risk of dementia.

Throughout your life, some factors reduce your risk of developing dementia. A 2020 report by the Lancet Commission added three new factors to the 9 originally established factors reported in 2017. They found that a combination of all or some of these factors could delay or prevent 40 percent of dementia cases. These modifiable factors include:

  • Addressing hypertension
  • Reducing your weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Addressing depression
  • Staying social 
  • Regular exercise
  • Treating diabetes 
  • Attempting to avoid head injury
  • Education at least till the age of 21
  • Filtering out air pollution
  • Addressing a hearing loss


“We are learning that tactics to avoid dementia begin early and continue throughout life, so it’s never too early or too late to take action,” reports commission member and AAIC presenter Lon Schneider, MD.


How hearing impairment leads to cognitive deterioration

When you struggle to hear it creates communication issues. These issues may affect how you connect to others, as well as add cognitive strain during social interactions. This can cause many to avoid social interactions altogether, which inevitably can lead to chronic depression, less activity, and a failure to take care of yourself and your health. As we study hearing loss, it’s hard not to see how this communication issue starts to check all too many of the boxes for modifiable factors which may increase your risk of dementia.

Treating Hearing Loss

While hearing loss is most often permanent, it can be treated effectively. The most common treatment is hearing aids, which are programmed to amplify only the sounds you struggle with based on your hearing exam. This allows individuals the ability to connect to the people around them, stay active and maintain an elevated mood.

A recent French study followed a group of more than 3,500 people for 25 years to explore how the hearing loss affected aspects of their health. Lead researcher, Hélène Amieva from Victor Segalen Bordeaux University in France, examined the self-reports of seniors with and without hearing loss to better understand how the hearing loss affected their cognitive abilities. The study determined that living with untreated hearing loss in older adults speeds up cognitive decline. However, the study found that this risk could be mitigated by the use of hearing aids.

How can hearing aids help?

If you are having hearing issues don’t wait until they are severe. The risk of dementia rises as the level of hearing loss does. While a Johns Hopkins study found that a mild hearing loss doubles the risk for dementia, it determined that a moderate hearing loss tripled the risk, while a severe loss increased the risk five-fold. 

The first step in treating a hearing loss is often admitting that you have an issue in the first place. Often people live with hearing loss for on average a decade before acting or admitting they have an issue that needs to be treated. In this time many social, mental, and physical issues connected to hearing loss can develop which may be irreversible. If you suspect you have a hearing loss, don’t wait for it to get to this point. Schedule a hearing exam today and join the fight against dementia worldwide. It starts with you!