What’s the Connection between Hearing Loss and Dementia?

hearing_loss_dementia

Many studies – both in the U.S. and abroad – have been conducted to determine if we can connect the dots between losing hearing and “losing the mind.” While the studies don’t draw exactly the same conclusions or know what exactly the connection is, most researchers do agree that there is a definite link between age-related hearing loss and dementia.

Hearing Test Questions

Do you have a hearing loss that needs to be evaluated by a professional?

Hearing TestIf you answer YES to TWO or MORE of the following questions, you should get a professional hearing test.  Contact us for an in-person hearing evaluation:

  • Do you hear, but have trouble understanding certain words during conversation?
  • Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?
  • Do you have trouble hearing when you can’t see the speaker’s face?
  • Do you have a problem hearing over the telephone?
  • Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?
  • Do you have trouble understanding women’s or children’s voices?
  • Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background? (restaurants, movies, churches)?
  • Do you have trouble following a conversation with two or more people talking at the same time?
  • Do you have to strain to understand conversation?
  • Do family members or co-workers remark that you are missing what has been said?
  • Do many people you talk to seem to mumble (or not speak clearly)?
  • Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?

How We Hear

How the ear worksThe human ear is divided into three distinct sections or regions: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.

Anatomy

  • The outer ear includes the ear canal and eardrum.
  • The middle ear begins just behind the eardrum and consists of the three smallest bones of the human body known as the malleus, incus, and stapes. The three bones together are called the ossicles.
  • The inner ear contains the semicircular canals, cochlea, stereocilia (also known as hair cells contained in the cochlea) and the beginning of the auditory nerve.

How the parts of the ear all work together to translate sound.

  1. Sound travels down the air-filled ear canal and collides with the eardrum, causing it to vibrate.
  2. The vibration of the eardrum causes the ossicles of the air-filled middle ear to vibrate as well.
  3. This in turn, causes movement of the hair cells in the fluid-filled inner ear. The movement of the hair cells produce electrical signals which are sent through the auditory nerve to the brain.
  4. The brain then interprets these signals as sound.

What is Hearing Loss?

What_is_hearing_lossWhat is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is a measureable decrease in the ability to perceive sound.

It can be total or partial, gradual or sudden, temporary or permanent. It can affect one ear or both ears. Generally, the risk of suffering hearing loss increases with age.

There are three types of hearing loss. They are categorized by the part of the auditory system that is damaged:

  • Conductive Hearing Loss – when sound is not conducted efficiently through what is known as the outer ear (ear canal to the eardrum) or the middle ear (the eardrum through the three tiny bones of the middle ear called the malleus, incus, and stapes). Conductive hearing loss usually involves a reduction in sound level or the inability to hear faint sounds. This type of hearing loss can usually be treated with medication or surgery.
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss – when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea, stereocilia, and/or auditory nerve) or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss and generally cannot be medically or surgically treated. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, even when speech is loud enough to hear, it may still sound muffled or unclear. Most of the time hearing aids are the solution to sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Mixed Hearing Loss – when both Sensorineural and Conductive Hearing Loss are present, this is known as mixed hearing loss. With mixed hearing loss, an individual would have damage to both the outer and/or middle ear and the inner ear.