Everything You Need to Know About Hearing Loss & Dementia

by | Jun 13, 2024 | Hearing Loss

What are the links between hearing loss and dementia? What can be done to prevent or treat hearing loss to avoid cognitive decline? Learn about the signs, prevention, and management to protect your cognitive health.

With June being National Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, we thought it was a great time to take a comprehensive look at the links between hearing loss and cognitive decline. With more than 50 million people around the world suffering from some form of dementia, Alzheimer’s has emerged as the leading type, accounting for up to 70% of reported cases. As experts zero in on the specific ways we can combat these conditions, more focus has been placed on the strong links between hearing loss and the risk of dementia. 

Let’s take a look at the most recent data about the risks of hearing loss and how it can impact your cognitive health over time.

What is Hearing Loss?

While most are casually familiar with the idea of hearing loss, experts generally characterize hearing loss as being the partial or full loss of sound perception in one or both ears. While many cases go unnoticed or unreported for various reasons, it’s currently believed that there are conservatively 37.5 million Americans who are currently experiencing hearing loss ranging from mild to profound.

Types of Hearing Loss

Generally speaking, hearing loss falls into one of three primary categories: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.

For those experiencing conductive hearing loss, much of the world sounds like it’s being filtered to some extent through a pillow or blanket. Voices can often seem distant or distorted, similar to the feeling you might get with a bad head cold. Those with conductive loss can find it hard to follow conversations, especially in noisy environments. Other signs of this type of hearing loss might also include listening to music or videos at increased volume and favoring a “good” ear over another in order to hear better.

Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, can have more acute effects on a person. For many with this type of hearing loss, only certain hearing is affected. For example, a person with this condition might struggle to hear consonants. Other ways it can manifest is through tinnitus or by making high pitched noises or the voice of children harder to distinguish.

While there are key differences between sensorineural, where damage has occurred, and conductive hearing loss, where there’s a physical obstruction within the ear, the last type, mixed hearing loss, is a combination of the two types and can offer the affected a mixed bag of effects. In addition to difficulty with surroundings and voices, those with mixed hearing loss also can experience varying volume and clarity where sounds may appear muffled (conductive) and/or unclear (sensorineural). 

Common Causes of Hearing Loss

The most common causes for hearing loss include:

  • Aging,
  • Exposure to loud noises,
  • Infections,
  • Genetics,
  • Certain medications, and
  • Conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Understanding Cognitive Decline and Dementia

For those experiencing it, cognitive decline is so much more than just forgetfulness; it’s a collection of mental conditions that can have profound effects on people. Those with dementia, the most diagnosed form of cognitive decline according to the WHO, can have great difficulty with even some of the most common daily tasks like cooking or balancing a checkbook. These obstacles can often isolate individuals, changing the way they interact with the communities they once actively participated in.

Dementia Types

While dementia may be the leading form of cognitive decline, other types may include vascular dementia (when blood is restricted to the brain), Lewy body dementia (a condition marked by confusion, hallucinations, and movement problems), and frontotemporal dementia (a condition that affects personality, behavior, and language). Because their symptoms often overlap, it’s important to speak to a doctor who is experienced in treating the condition to find solutions that best fit an individual’s lifestyle.

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

Although our understanding of both hearing loss and dementia is constantly evolving, recent research shows a strong link between even mild hearing loss and a person’s increased risk for cognitive decline as they get older. Current theories about this connection indicate that struggling to hear can lead to social isolation, reduced mental stimulation, and brain changes that promote further decline. Without treatment or intervention, these issues may only get worse as the person ages naturally.

Why Hearing Loss Boosts Your Risk

Straining to hear and understand the world around you taxes the mind, potentially overloading a person’s cognitive ability. Hearing loss also can lead to social isolation, contributing even more to a person’s potential decline.


For hearing loss, the symptoms are fairly well known and straightforward. Symptoms a person may notice if suffering from hearing loss might include trouble understanding speech, often needing amplified volumes, and frequently asking others to repeat themselves.

Because dementia can progress at a slow rate, some signs a person is suffering from one of these diseases might include memory issues, confusion, struggling with complex tasks, and personality changes.


For both hearing loss and cognitive decline, speed is the key to unlocking positive outcomes. Preventing hearing loss is simpler than you probably think. Simple activities like turning down the volume, using earplugs, and giving your hearing regular breaks after exposure to loud noises. It’s also important to speak with a doctor about any health conditions that may be affecting your hearing.

As for your brain, in many ways it’s “use it or lose it.” Regular exercise doesn’t just improve your physical strength, it also floods your brain with oxygen and important growth factors. Learning new skills, tackling puzzles, and enjoying a hobby have all been shown to be effective at lowering a person’s risk for dementia.

Managing Hearing Loss

If you or someone you love is already noticing hearing loss, don’t wait! Modern advances in hearing aids means their features and functionality is lightyears ahead of the clunky devices of the past. Today’s devices can be nearly invisible and can effectively filter out background noises and even connect to your phone. Managing more severe cases of hearing loss should be discussed with an expert Audiologist like the team at Colorado Ear Care. They may suggest other treatments like cochlear implants, which are designed to bypass the damaged parts of the ear, stimulating the auditory nerve directly. 

A groundbreaking study conducted by the National Institute of Health recently showed that hearing aids don’t just help you to hear — they can help reduce your risk of developing dementia in your later years.

Finding Help for Your Hearing Loss

In both cases of hearing loss and dementia, specialists like those found at Colorado Ear Care assist those with these conditions in a number of vital ways. Through routine screenings, patient education, and comprehensive treatment plans, it should be possible to preserve or improve a person’s quality of life while also reducing their risk of exacerbating these problems.

As we know both of these conditions get worse with age, we believe that comprehensive hearing exams should be conducted at least once a year to catch any issues early.

Supporting Loved Ones

Supporting those with these conditions is a unique challenge that requires patience, understanding, and creativity. Tiny gestures like focusing on clear face-to-face communication and intentionally including them in social activities can make a huge difference for them. Another key way you can support a loved one experiencing any of these issues or symptoms is to know when to seek professional help. Modern support services have come a long way in recent years and can be a valuable resource for guidance or even the occasional break.

Hearing Aid Innovations

Modern hearing aids have also proven themselves to be a boon to hearing loss sufferers. These discreet, high-tech devices amplify sound, but as discussed above, can also offer a variety of other useful features. By improving their ability to engage with the sounds they love, hearing aids can help preserve personal connections in a world that can feel overwhelming.

Dispelling Myths

Ultimately, one of the biggest obstacles to tackling both of these conditions isn’t the medicine or technology; it’s misconception. 

Many think that losing your hearing is just a regular part of getting older, but the truth couldn’t be further from the truth. Like our eyesight, hearing and mental agility can fade with age, but we don’t often ignore our need for glasses.


Ignoring hearing loss doesn’t just mean missing out on conversations; it can accelerate cognitive decline and increase your risk of developing dementia. Schedule a comprehensive hearing exam with our team of experts today!

Talk with one of our friendly hearing and balance professionals today.