Hearing loss has long been considered a natural part of aging. However, what many don’t realize is that untreated hearing loss can significantly impact other aspects of health, including cognitive function.
Recent studies have shown a compelling link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. As hearing health experts at Berkeley Hearing Center, we have delved into this research and believe it’s crucial to spread awareness about this consequential association.
The Prevalence of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is an incredibly common condition, especially among older adults. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss. For those older than 75, the ratio increases to one in two.
Despite hearing loss’s prevalence, only about 20 percent of those who could benefit from treatment actually seek help. Many people delay seeking treatment for an average of seven to ten years after their initial diagnosis. This delay, combined with the link to cognitive decline, means that untreated hearing loss can silently pave the way to significant cognitive challenges over time.
Understanding the Link Between Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline
Cognitive decline refers to a decrease in cognitive capabilities, such as memory, attention, and thinking skills. When severe, this decline can manifest as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, both of which can severely impact an individual’s quality of life.
Several theories seek to explain the connection between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. One prominent theory posits that the extra effort needed to understand speech with hearing loss can take up cognitive resources, leading to cognitive overload. Over time, this cognitive overload can result in a decline in other cognitive abilities.
Another possible explanation lies in the effects of social isolation. Difficulty hearing can lead to avoidance of social situations, leading to fewer mentally stimulating interactions and a greater likelihood of cognitive decline.
The Research on Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline
Numerous studies have substantiated the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. A prominent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that cognitive abilities (including memory and comprehension skills) decline 30–40 percent faster in people with hearing loss than in those without.
Another study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery found that among a sample of nearly 2,000 older adults, those with hearing loss had a 24 percent increased risk for cognitive decline compared to those without hearing loss.
How Can Addressing Hearing Loss Help?
Treating hearing loss as soon as it’s diagnosed can help to slow or even prevent the associated cognitive decline. Hearing aids, the most common treatment for hearing loss, not only amplify sound but also reduce the strain of deciphering speech, freeing up cognitive resources for other tasks.
Moreover, improved hearing can encourage participation in social activities, helping to stave off the negative effects of social isolation on mental health.
Your Partner in Healthy Hearing and Cognitive Wellness
At Berkeley Hearing Center, we understand the profound implications of the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Our dedicated team of audiologists is committed to providing comprehensive care that addresses both your hearing health and cognitive wellness.
Located at 2748 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA, we provide state-of-the-art diagnostic services and personalized treatment plans designed to cater to your unique hearing needs and lifestyle preferences. We take a patient-centered approach to hearing healthcare, focusing on preventive measures and ongoing support to ensure the best possible outcomes for our patients.
We are open from Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
We stand ready to guide you on your journey toward better hearing and cognitive health.
Don’t let untreated hearing loss affect your cognitive abilities and overall quality of life. Reach out to Berkeley Hearing Center today and take the first crucial step toward improved hearing and cognitive wellness.