Did you know that hearing, vision, and brain health are all connected? Studies show that taking care of your hearing and vision slows cognitive decline by 50-75%!

Link Between Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline 

Cognitive decline is the key characteristic of dementia which encompasses a range of medical conditions that take a toll on brain health. Substantial research shows that there is a significant correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. A major study that examined this link was published in the  Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. Researchers assessed the hearing and cognitive capacities of 10,107 people over an 8 year period. They found that cognitive decline was:

  • 30% higher for people with mild hearing loss
  • >42% higher for people with moderate hearing loss
  • 54% higher for people with severe hearing loss

These findings reveal that people with hearing loss were much more likely to develop cognitive decline. This data also shows that the greater the hearing loss, the risk of cognitive decline also increased. This study supports further research that identifies hearing loss as a risk factor for cognitive decline.

Vision, Hearing, and Cognitive Decline

There are additional studies that show a link between vision, hearing, and cognitive decline. This includes a study conducted by researchers at the University of Manchester. This study included the following findings:

  1. Researchers evaluated the hearing and cognitive capacities of 2,000 seniors every two years for 18 years. They found that cognitive decline was 75% slower among people who treated their hearing loss by wearing hearing aids.
  2. Researchers also examined the impact of vision health on the brain. They did this by comparing people who had cataract surgery to those who did not. This included over 5,000 people: 2,068 received cataract surgery and 3,636 did not have cataracts or surgery. Researchers found that for people who had cataract surgery:
  • cognitive decline continued to slow down over 13 years, improving brain health.
  • cognitive functions were measured to be equal to those who did not have cataracts.
  • Cataract surgery can slow cognitive decline by 50%.

This study highlights that treating hearing loss with hearing aids reduced the risk of cognitive decline. Another key finding was that improving vision correlated to a reduced risk of cognitive decline as well.

Impact of Vision & Hearing Loss on Brain Health

Vision and hearing impairments can affect brain health in significant ways. Seeing and hearing systems involve the brain which receives visual or auditory signals and processes these signals. The portions of the brain that engage in this processing are impacted when hearing loss or vision impairment is present. This impact can look like:

  • brain atrophy: parts of the brain that process these signals become inactive because they are receiving less information. Inactivity can cause these areas to shrink, lead to a loss of neurons, and cause restructuring which impacts cognitive functions.
  • cognitive overload: as a result of receiving less signals, the brain often works harder in search of visual and sound signals. The brain exerts more effort in trying to hear or see which not only produces fatigue but also cognitive overload.
  • social withdrawal: hearing and vision impairments can cause people to retreat and not engage in social activities. This also includes spending less time with others and skipping out on events. Social withdrawal can be a major symptom which produces isolation, anxiety, loneliness and other depressive symptoms. This also results in the brain receiving less stimulation and engagement which can also contribute to cognitive decline.

These outcomes can take a toll on brain health, contributing to the development of cognitive decline. Cognitive decline increases the risk of developing conditions like dementia which are irreversible and can significantly affect quality of life. This highlights the importance of intervening and seeking treatment for any symptoms you could be experiencing.

Prioritize Vision & Hearing Healthcare 

It is important to prioritize healthcare for vision and hearing health. You can do this by integrating vision and hearing tests in annual health check-ins. This allows you to track your health and identify any symptoms that may require treatment. Taking care of your vision and hearing health supports your brain health and reduces the risk of cognitive decline. Contact us today to learn more and to also schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. We look forward to helping you prioritize your health and wellness.