Elderly woman with her hand up to ear because she can't hear

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

Join Us for a Special Presentation on the Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia.

Did you know that the worse your hearing is, the more energy your brain needs to figure out what people are saying or to identify a background noise? Untreated hearing loss can lead to miscommunication, problems remembering or muddled thinking.

Treating hearing loss is urgent because there is also a link between hearing loss and dementia. Join us as we explore ways to treat and slow down the process.

Tuesday, March 24, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Carnegie Village Senior Living
Space is limited. RSVP to Rosemary Sylvan at 816-331-7848. 
Presented by: Kristy Schieszer, audiologist, Hearing Health Associates

This free event is presented by Kristy Schieszer, an audiologist who sees patients in Blue Springs. A Missouri native, Kristy earned her bachelor’s degree in Speech Disorders and master’s in Audiology from the University of Central Missouri.

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, hearing loss is a fact of life for more than 48 million Americans. By the time Americans reach their 70s, two-thirds have hearing loss.

Adults with untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than adults whose hearing is normal. Degraded hearing may force the brain to devote too much of its energy to processing sound.

Common Ways Hearing Loss Leads to Dementia:

Researchers define constantly straining to understand as cognitive load. That effort stresses the brain. If you put a lot of effort into comprehending what you’re hearing, it uses up resources that would otherwise be available for encoding what you hear in memory.

Older adults with hearing loss have less gray matter in the part of their brain that receives and processes sounds from the ears. This does not necessarily mean you’re losing brain cells. But certain structures of brain cells can shrink when they don’t get enough stimulation.

A final factor that can play into hearing loss is social isolation. Being hard of hearing tends to isolate people from others. If you have to struggle to converse, you may be less likely to socialize in groups and go out. Social isolation has long been recognized as a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.

Hearing loss can be misdiagnosed as dementia or make the symptoms of dementia appear worse.

Common symptoms of dementia:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty with thinking and decision-making
  • Decline in skills needed for everyday living
  • Changes in ways of communicating

Common symptoms of hearing loss:

  • Difficulty hearing other people clearly and not understanding what they say, especially in group situations
  • Asking people to repeat themselves or talk more slowly
  • Having the volume for music or TV higher than other people need
  • Difficulty hearing the phone or doorbell
  • Finding it difficult to tell which direction noise is coming from
  • Often feeling tired or stressed, from having to concentrate while listening

If you feel you have hearing loss, it makes sense to get it checked out. Fewer than 15% to 20% of those with a clinically significant hearing loss even use hearing aids, according to AARP.