July 7, 2022

Senior man wearing a hearing aide

Hearing and cognitive function are closely related, and treating hearing loss may help to reduce the risk for dementia.

Are you finding the need to turn the TV up louder for an older adult you love? Talking more loudly? Repeating conversations the senior loved one missed hearing the first time? Hearing loss in older adults isn’t uncommon. But new, scientific studies are pointing to a surprising link between hearing loss and an increased risk for dementia.

How Hearing and Cognitive Functioning Are Related

There are several hypotheses researchers are exploring to explain the link between hearing loss and dementia:

  1. The brain’s memory and thinking systems are impacted when it has to focus harder to strain to hear and to fill in the gaps when communication is missed.
  2. An older brain shrinks more rapidly as the result of hearing loss.
  3. Less social interaction results in less mental stimulation and a less active and engaged brain.

It’s extremely important to determine the specific cause of this connection and to discover if treating hearing loss can help. The number of people who may be impacted is astounding, with as many as 37.5 million Americans currently going through some level of hearing loss.

We already know that seniors with hearing loss have a decline in cognitive functioning at a rate of 30 – 40% faster than those with normal hearing. Not just that, but hearing loss increases the risk for additional health problems, such as falls and depression.

The good news is that medical researchers at Johns Hopkins are currently trying to determine if treating hearing loss could actually minimize brain aging and reduce the risk for dementia. A study of almost 1,000 older adults with hearing loss is ongoing, and by as soon as next year, we’ll have the information necessary for a path forward.

If an older adult you love struggles with hearing loss, encourage them to get a checkup and to wear hearing aids if recommended by the doctor. Our caregivers can even provide transportation for that checkup if needed.

In addition, our dementia care specialists are readily available to assist individuals with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia to stay safe, comfortable, and involved with meaningful and enjoyable activities. We can also help with more effectively managing some of the challenging behaviors associated with dementia, such as aggression, agitation, wandering, sundowning, and more.

Just call Continuum, one of the top St. Louis home care agencies, any time at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 for additional details on how we can help older adults live healthier lives at home. We offer a free in-home consultation to answer all of your questions and to develop a personalized plan of care to best meet your needs. Please visit our Service Area page to see all of the communities we serve.