Many studies show a connection between hearing loss and dementia, a condition marked by memory loss and trouble with thinking and problem-solving. In fact, hearing loss is estimated to account for 8 percent of dementia cases in the US. The good news: Treating hearing loss aggressively can actually help ward off cognitive decline and dementia.
The latest aging research has not only drawn connections between hearing loss and dementia, but it’s also leading scientists to believe that it may actually be a cause of dementia. Research is still ongoing, but studies detailing the prevalence of hearing loss cases are providing more information about their correlation and causes.
In a 2011 study, scientists found that the greater a person’s hearing loss, the greater their chances for cognitive decline seem to be. Mild, moderate and severe hearing loss meant the odds were two, three and five times greater, respectively, over the following 10-plus years.  Researchers also examined participants’ lifestyles to determine the effects of social interactions, health conditions and involvement in leisure activities on the prevalence of dementia and cognitive decline.
A 2013 study found that participants with hearing loss severe enough to interfere with conversation had a decline in cognitive ability 30 percent to 40 percent faster than those with normal hearing, over a period of six years. Researchers found that levels of declining brain function were directly related to the degree of hearing loss. On average, older adults with hearing loss developed impairments in their cognitive health 3.2 years sooner than their peers with normal hearing. 
Finally, a 2020 report found that out of 12 risk factors, hearing impairment presented the greatest risk of dementia. Researchers found that there was a 8 percent reduction in dementia prevalence if hearing loss was eliminated as a potential danger. At the same time, the report noted a decrease in cognition for every 10 decibel reduction in hearing. 
Several factors account for the relationship between hearing loss and dementia, including:
As we’ve seen, scientists are conducting ongoing research to tease out the details of the connections between hearing loss and dementia. The question of whether hearing loss is a sign of dementia doesn’t have a definitive answer just yet. The associations between the two conditions are increasingly well-documented, but the causation of one in relationship to the other remains undefined.
If hearing loss is a sign of dementia, it is one of many. Both hearing loss and dementia are complex conditions with many potential contributing factors and symptoms. While the search for more refined understanding continues, the links between hearing loss and dementia of which we are already aware can help us make decisions that support hearing health and stave off dementia.
It’s important to note that just because someone is at an increased risk for dementia, it does not necessarily mean that person is certain to develop it. However, you can take steps to prevent the condition.
Some experts believe the treatment of hearing loss in mid-to-late life could prevent 9% of dementia cases globally. Hearing aids are the most effective way to treat noise-induced or age-related hearing loss.
Make hearing health a priority by forming good daily habits and taking active steps to protect your health. By properly caring for your ears every day, you’ll be able to protect your hearing for the future and stay connected to the life you love.
The relationship between hearing loss and dementia is something to keep in mind for yourself, but also something to look for in others. If you think you’ve been experiencing hearing loss, or if you see signs in a loved one, schedule a free hearing evaluation at your local Miracle-Ear and discuss hearing loss treatment options today.