Untreated Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

Story by Julia Byrd, H.I.S., Precision Hearing Solutions

Many studies over the last few years have brought to light a link between hearing loss and dementia. These studies have found that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults, which over time significantly increases their risk of dementia compared to those who have retained their hearing. According to Hearing Loss Association of America, by the time Americans reach their 70s, two-thirds will have hearing loss.

When it comes to hearing, we “hear” with our brain, not our ears. With a hearing loss, your brain is not getting the sound stimulation it needs to be able to process and react to the sound as your brain hears it. When this happens, the sound must be remapped which increases cognitive load significantly. What that means for a person with a hearing loss is that they must put extra effort into perceiving the sound they are hearing, which takes away the brain’s resources that allow what they have heard to be stored in their memory.

Fortunately, for most people, hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids. Hearing devices provide the balance back to the normal organization of connections to the “sound center” so that they can process and understand the speech and sound they hear.

The link between hearing loss and cognitive decline has become a topic discussed more frequently but there is still a long way to go. There are still approximately 28.8 million adults who could benefit from hearing aids but have not received help for their hearing loss. Testing your hearing annually, especially for people 55 or older, is an important part of your wellness care. If there is a hearing loss, even a mild loss, it is best to take it seriously and treat it.

Another factor of untreated hearing loss is social isolation. Social isolation is a serious problem but very much fixable. When a person struggles to hear conversation, they are less likely to participate in social gatherings and enjoy their daily activities. This isolation adds an additional risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Treating the hearing loss with hearing devices allows you to enjoy “your” life, at the same time processing sound properly to prevent cognitive decline. One of the most important functions of a hearing device is detecting speech and bringing it forward to the wearer, crisp and clear.



Hearing Loss Association of America.

John Hopkins University.

Katherine Griffin, Katherine Bouton, AARP.