Hearing Loss and Dementia

Hearing Loss

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that almost 1 in 5 people have hearing loss. While there are numerous risk factors associated with hearing loss, such as heredity, certain medications, infections, noise exposure, and physical trauma, one of the major causes of hearing loss is aging. As we age, looking after your hearing and using hearing technology such as hearing aids could make a world of difference in preventing or delaying dementia. There is a growing body of research that suggests there is a relationship between hearing loss and reduced cognitive function in older adults, including an increased incidence of dementia.


Dementia is a condition in which a person’s cognitive function operates at a suboptimal level, affecting at least one of the brain’s thinking abilities. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a condition often associated with the older population.

Stages of dementia

Oftentimes the effects of dementia are easily dismissed and blamed on fatigue and age. Early signs of dementia may start with small instances of forgetfulness, loss of interest in activities or events, asking for more repeats during conversations, and being more easily irritable. As dementia progresses to a moderate level, people may become more forgetful of time, place, and names, leading to more safety concerns if they are wandering outside themselves. The final advanced stage of dementia is when the person requires constant care. Self-care may not be possible at this stage, and as such the caretaker may need to assist with activities like bathing, eating, and dressing. Dementia patients develop symptoms at different rates, so it is best to consult with a medical professional for more information.

Hearing loss and dementia intertwined

Similarly with dementia, hearing loss also impacts upon a person’s ability to follow conversations. People who are hard of hearing may also lose interest in certain activities they previously may have been avid participants for. Lack of communication can impact on the person’s social and mental wellbeing, promoting more reserved and isolating personalities that steer away from the expected awkwardness and inability to contribute to conversations. Auditory deprivation is a term to describe the lack of sounds a person is exposed to, leading to neural atrophy of certain brain pathways i.e., the lesser the cells are used to process sound, the more likely they will become inactive over time. This concept can present in a very similar way to cognitive decline, a symptom of dementia where people notice that their ability to think or remember things becomes more difficult. Research has shown that hearing loss is a major risk factor of dementia, with studies demonstrating an increased risk of two to five times the likelihood.

Management options

The 2023 Lancet study found that the risk of developing dementia in people without hearing loss is the same as hearing aid wearers. With the advent of new hearing amplification technology, studies have shown health benefits across the patients’ quality of life. To increase social and mental stimulation, hearing rehabilitation can help patients become more engaged in conversations through better speech clarity and audibility. Communication strategies such as having good lighting and room acoustics, as well as lipreading are useful tactics to apply when conversing with someone who has a hearing loss. These management options can slow down the development of dementia as the brain would be more stimulated, promoting greater health and well-being.

Ultimately, it is important to check up on those around you. If you notice someone has been acting more isolated, please reach out to them as there may be something we can do to make a difference to someone’s life.

At Knox Audiology, we take pride in our team of university qualified and experienced audiologists, who are committed to providing trusted, friendly, and professional hearing services, catering to all your unique hearing needs. Our comprehensive and diagnostic hearing tests are designed to understand and address your specific concerns, ensuring the best possible outcomes.

For any support, please reach out to us, call 03 9800 5697 or contact us online.

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