Part One: Hearing loss and cognitive health - treating hearing loss can help prevent dementia

Maintaining our mental acuity as we age is as important as maintaining our body health. Cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s and dementia are all conditions we’d like to avoid, if at all possible.


It has been proven by a growing body of research that our hearing loss plays an important role in our ability to maintain our mental health as we grow older. A 2018 research review found that  untreated hearing loss that was untreated actually increased dementia risks by 50 percent.


Exactly why untreated hearing loss increases dementia risk is still inconclusive according to researchers. However, three possible reasons are provided:

Social isolation can be a result of hearing loss

For some time, hearing loss that goes untreated has been found to increase social isolation and loneliness. Some studies have revealed increases in probability of Alzheimer’s and dementia in patients with untreated hearing loss.


If you give it some thought, it does make perfect sense: if you have a hard time hearing, it’s much more likely that you will remove yourself from social activities or any situations where hearing plays a big part.

Hearing loss can shift your cognitive load

The more difficult hearing becomes, the harder your brain needs to work to understand and process whatever you’re trying to hear. This can actually rob your brain of the energy needed for thinking and memory. This is referred to by scientists as “cognitive load theory”.


Try to imagine that your brain only has a limited amount of energy. The progression of hearing loss uses more and more energy to comprehend what you’re listening to, thereby leaving you less energy for tasks like decision making and memory.

Brain shrinkage is accelerated by hearing loss

Hearing loss has been shown to accelerate atrophy or shrinkage of the brain.


It’s true and it’s hard to believe, but our brains get smaller as we age. However, researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland discovered that individuals with hearing impairment lost more brain tissue per year than their ‘normal hearing’ peers. This was believed to be linked to atrophy due to limited stimulation.

Is it possible to keep us mentally sharp by treating hearing loss?

To date, it has not been proven by evidence that hearing loss treatment can prevent cognitive decline. However, studies have strongly favoured the fact that the treatment of hearing loss can help. (Further studies are now in the works.)


A 2015 study monitored subjects over a 25 year span. The study revealed that individuals with self reported hearing loss who didn’t wear hearing aids showed signs of increased cognitive decline. Furthermore, the individuals with hearing loss that actually wore hearing aids showed no more decline in their cognitive levels than their peers with normal hearing.


In 2017, an interesting study was conducted by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care. The study concluded that treating and managing hearing loss in mid-life years is one of nine things a person can do to aid in avoiding dementia. Actually, the Lancet Commission recommended this as the number one risk factor one could modify in order to “reduce the incidence of dementia or substantially delay it’s onset”.


Hearing loss treatment, according to the suggestions of researchers, “could prevent up to nine percent of the more than 47 million dementia cases in the world”.  

Hearing Aids are a Very Effective Treatment for Hearing Loss

The link between cognitive decline and hearing loss - along with the aforementioned studies - should be the extra incentive for individuals to not ignore common hearing loss signs and actively treat their hearing loss. And an outstanding treatment for hearing loss happens to be hearing aids!


People can manage both their hearing loss and cognitive health with Livio Edge AI or Livio AI hearing aids. These hearing aids are not only our best sounding and performing, but they’re also the first wearable hearing device that will allow you to monitor your body and brain activity.


If you’re ready to treat your hearing loss, book an appointment with a local hearing professional today! Simply call (888) 919-6824 or click here.


By Starkey Canada