Untreated hearing loss affects more than just hearing health. Hearing loss can be a catalyst for cognitive decline such as dementia. The longer the hearing loss is untreated, the increased likelihood of cognitive impairment. According to Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the degree of hearing loss within an individual determines the likelihood of dementia. A research study conducted by Lin and his colleagues tracked the cognitive health of over 639 older individuals for 12 years to 18 years, all were considered to be mentally sharp when the study initially began. The results found a distinct correlation between the initial hearing loss of the participants and the likelihood of developing dementia. The worse the hearing loss was at the beginning of the study, the more likely the person was to develop dementia, and those with moderate hearing loss had triple the risk in comparison to those with regular hearing .
Unfortunately, a large majority of people are unaware of the correlation between hearing loss and dementia. We forget that our ears are not stand-alone additions to our body, rather, they are vital body parts that have a mutually beneficial relationship with the rest of our complex system. We would never take a fully functioning brain for granted, so it is imperative to work on preventing agents that lead to our brain’s decline, such as hearing loss.
Cognitive decline induced by hearing loss occurs gradually before approaching a severity such as dementia . It starts with ignoring the small hints at hearing loss symptoms. Incoming sound becomes a mental strain to process. Difficulty hearing starts to dampen conversations and asking for repetitions leads to frustration, ultimately working to increase social isolation. Memory loss then slowly becomes a casual occurrence in daily life. Hearing loss does not guarantee the development of dementia, but there is a strong possibility. Rather than waiting to find out, why not take a leap forward into hearing health and wellness. Maintaining the overall health of your body and mental health over time includes prioritizing taking care of your hearing health.