The World Health Organization defines dementia as “a syndrome, generally of a chronic or progressive nature, in which there is an impairment in cognitive function (that is, the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected of normal aging. It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language and judgment ”. If losing your memory is part of your daily life, there is a reference that can give you clues if it is something more serious than just that, and it is the link between dementia and hearing loss.

What is dementia

It’s no wonder that most of us think of Alzheimer’s first when we hear the word dementia. After all, it is the most common cognitive disease associated with dementia. It is also not surprising that most people have a personal connection to a friend or family member who suffers from a cognitive disease, as there are 50 million internationally documented cases, and approximately 10 million new cases diagnosed each year.

Losing memory – product of a deteriorating mind

We live in a society where most people react to health problems rather than being proactive. A body crisis reminds us of our limited time on this rotating rock, and our mortality-conscious action can be set in motion when we face these crises. Fortunately, our most precious commodity – our brains – is encased in a tough exterior to protect it from physical trauma that can change the course of our lives forever.

Unfortunately, physical trauma is not the only factor that can damage our brains. In addition to unavoidable circumstances, such as genetics, age, and gender, there are a number of factors that we can immediately take control of. While people often associate a certain amount of forgetfulness with aging, a mind deteriorating to the point of developing a form of dementia is not a natural progression of life . It is important to be aware of everything that we can control regardless of age.

Link between dementia and hearing loss

Sounds ridiculous? How could there be a connection between hearing loss and dementia?

Surprisingly, articles dating back to the 1980s link hearing loss (HL) and dementia, predominantly in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In a 1989 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a control group without dementia and another with dementia, 100 people in each group, all similar in age, sex, and education, were used to determine if the Hearing impairment correlated with cognitive dysfunction. The study showed “an association between hearing impairment and dementia” and supported “the hypothesis that hearing impairment contributes to cognitive dysfunction in older adults.”

Another study published in 2014 followed 4,463 subjects over the age of 65, all without dementia and 836 with hearing loss. Of those subjects, 16.3% with HL developed dementia compared to 12.1% without HL. The results “showed that HL was associated with a faster decline … than those without HL.”

A recurring possibility for why this connection exists is social involvement. With hearing loss comes a certain amount of isolation and withdrawal from situations that one might not have previously avoided. This withdrawal from socialization can lead to behavioral changes, such as depression, and eventually this can have brain-altering effects. One study suggests that “hearing loss leads to cognitive decline due to degradation of inputs to the brain.”

Other risk factors for dementia

According to a review article published in The Journal of the Formosa Medical Association (2009), the following are contributing factors to dementia:

  • Genetic effects
  • Years
  • Sex
  • Physical activity
  • Of smoking
  • Drugs
  • Education
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Comorbidity (two or more diseases that occur in an individual simultaneously)
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Environmental factors (these focused on nutritional factors in the article)

While there are numerous factors involved with the onset of dementia, it is impossible to comprehensively ignore lifestyle as one of the influencing factors. Studies show that factors such as diabetes, smoking, and high blood pressure are associated with HL.

Be proactive to avoid memory loss and dementia

As long as there is breath in our lungs, we have the ability to make better decisions for our long-term health. Very often, the plight of youth does not realize that “one day” is really close to us, and the simplest (though not always the easiest) way to be proactive in an attempt to avoid cognitive illnesses and others is to make nutritionally sound decisions and stay active.

Because there is a link between hearing loss and dementia , the logical delineation would be to assess what other factors exist in our lives that could lead to hearing loss in order to minimize the long-term effects. For example, diabetes mellitus (DM) is known to cause hearing loss.

One study indicates that DM is closely related to hearing damage. Both large and microscopic blood vessels are affected in DM. When blood vessels are affected, nerve damage can occur. When such pathological changes affect the cochlea and auditory nerve, cochlear and / or neural hearing loss occurs.

Mediterranean diet to avoid dementia

Even those with the genetic predisposition to develop late-onset AD, the presence of the APOE-e4 gene, can benefit from certain nutritional practices. The MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) was created by Rush University in an attempt to address the benefits of both diets (Mediterranean and DASH-Dietary Approach to stop hypertension ), while incorporating specific foods that have nutritional benefits for brain function and cognition.

There is an emphasis on eating green leafy vegetables (antioxidant vitamin E and folate), berries (polyphenols), and shellfish (omega 3 fatty acids), as well as other vegetables, olive oil, wine, nuts, whole grains, and poultry. The diet also focuses on eliminating refined and sugary foods, as well as limiting red meat, butter and margarine (although a small amount of butter is allowed), and cheese. Their data suggested that “even loosely adhering to the MIND diet can help delay the occurrence of AD.”


Dementia has long eluded the scientific community. There are theories and hypotheses, and they are getting closer to progress. The brain is such an intricately intertwined entity that the widest range of possibilities has not yet been exhausted.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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