Lady, gray hair leaning in and trying to hear something.

Cognitive Decline and Hearing Loss

By: Kelsey Brittingham, Au.D.

Studies show that, on average, people with hearing loss wait almost ten years before they do something about it. Many people say as long as they can hear some sound, it’s okay. However, recent studies have shown that untreated hearing loss could cost you physically, mentally, and even in the pocketbook.

Many longevity studies show that throughout a person’s lifetime, they lose hearing and cognitive functions.  However, research has also shown us that depending on the severity of a person’s hearing loss, they are at a greater risk for cognitive decline.

According to a recent report, untreated hearing loss in the U.S. costs $133 billion yearly. This breaks down to around $9,100 per person. With approximately 23 million people with disabling hearing loss, more than 14.6 million are not treated.

Another study suggested that older adults with untreated hearing loss may develop additional health problems that lead to more frequent hospitalizations and higher healthcare costs. They calculated an increase of 46% ($22,434) in total healthcare costs over 10 years concerning untreated hearing loss.

People with at least 25 dB hearing loss are three times more likely to report falls. And for every 10 dB increase in hearing loss, there was a 1.4 times increase in the chance of falling. One explanation for the link is that people who cannot hear well are unaware of their environment.

Communication impairments can lead to social isolation, loneliness, and withdrawal. This can contribute to depression and even cognitive decline.

When auditory perception is difficult, such as with hearing loss, greater cognitive resources have to be dedicated to auditory processing, which is suspected of causing other processes, like working memory, to suffer. Those with hearing loss have demonstrated a 30% to 40% accelerated rate of cognitive decline.

Hearing aids help people with hearing loss stay part of the conversation and be more socially aware. Hearing aid wearers enjoy time with friends and family, participate in group activities and hear important information.


Effect of hearing aids on cognitive decline

Do hearing aids slow down cognitive decline? Studies show that properly using hearing aids can lower your risk factor for dementia. A study** documented hearing loss and cognitive decline among a group of nearly 4,000 volunteers over a 25-year period. What researchers found was interesting — people with hearing loss who didn’t use hearing aids had a higher risk of dementia and depression. However, people with hearing loss who did use hearing aids experienced cognitive decline at a rate similar to people without hearing loss.

The researchers concluded that the key wasn’t simply the ability to hear better. But, more importantly, how better hearing allowed them to stay involved in everyday life. By restoring the ability to communicate better, hearing aids can help improve life overall. Some aspects of improvement include social interactions, mood, and provide the opportunity to participate in brain-stimulating activities that can help slow cognitive decline.

Secondary effects of hearing loss

Important to also know is that dementia and cognitive decline aren’t the only conditions linked with hearing loss. Research associates it with a variety of other conditions, including:

  • Heart and cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Chronic kidney disease

Experts say that one of the most important things we can do to keep our brains (and bodies) healthy as we age is to stay mentally stimulated**. Keeping up an active social life with our friends, family, or business associates is one of many ways to be mentally engaged. And we can encourage this through good hearing health, including the use of hearing aids for those with hearing loss.


So, don’t wait ten years before you make an appointment for your hearing. If you are concerned about your hearing, a baseline hearing test is a great first step! Call our office at (423) 641-0956 or request an appointment online at:

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