Does hearing loss play a part in cognitive decline?

Researchers have long speculated about possible associations between hearing loss and cognitive decline. What do we know, and what needs to be researched further? In this article, we’ll explore whether hearing loss and cognitive decline are related and what scientists don’t yet understand about the possible correlation.

Hearing loss and cognitive decline

As we get older, it’s natural for our hearing to get a bit weaker. It’s also natural to experience some level of cognitive decline as we age, which can be mild to severe. While we don’t know if hearing loss causes dementia, we do know that the two often go hand in hand. However, there could be several reasons for this.

Those who experience a decline in their hearing ability may experience depression and a loss of interest in socializing. If you’re accustomed to hearing your family and friends speaking to you, and then you begin to lose that ability, it makes sense that you may not be able to keep up with conversations. You might isolate yourself to some extent to avoid the frustration of this situation. You may also feel depressed about your loss of ability, and depressed if you aren’t socializing with loved ones as much. 

However, research has shown that isolation and depression can contribute to dementia. Isolation also diminishes the amount of cognitive stimulation that an individual receives. Reading and other independent activities are good for the brain, but socialization is incredibly important to our brain health. Isolation can have adverse cognitive effects, even if the individual is doing cognitively stimulating activities independently.

There is also the possibility that hearing less sound causes the brain to be less stimulated than it is accustomed to. When we aren’t experiencing one of the senses that our brain is used to processing, it may decrease the volume of the auditory cortex in our brains. This is because we aren’t experiencing as much of the stimulation that keeps this area of the brain active and healthy. This could lead to a loss in volume which affects the health of our brains.

What we don’t know

While there is strong evidence suggesting that hearing loss may contribute to the onset of dementia, there just isn’t enough research yet to know for sure if there is a causal relationship. Does hearing loss cause dementia, or does depression and isolation surrounding hearing loss cause dementia? Scientists aren’t 100% certain. However, we can take away important information from this either way.

Can we prevent hearing loss?

We don’t always have control over whether we experience hearing loss. Most people will experience some level of hearing loss as they get older. However, there are preventative measures we can take.

Caring for our hearing while we’re younger can pay off in older age. Wearing earplugs to concerts and other loud events can help to preserve hearing. Also, listening to music at a reasonable level is important. This is specially true when using headphones or earbuds that deliver music directly into our ears at a short distance.

If you have already experienced hearing loss, hearing aids can be life-changing. Some studies have shown that hearing aids can help to prevent dementia. Again, there could be many reasons for this. A hearing aid helps people with hearing loss to hear better, so the depression, isolation, and lack of cognitive stimulation that come along with hearing loss no longer have to be an issue.

If you can continue to hear your loved ones speaking to you, you are more likely to continue receiving the many benefits of socializing as you age. And since your brain is still experiencing stimulation from sound, you will likely experience less loss of brain volume compared to someone who doesn’t use a hearing aid.


While there isn’t a certain causal relationship between hearing loss and developing dementia, there is enough evidence for researchers to be certain that preserving our hearing is important to our cognitive health.

Take care of your hearing as much as possible! Hearing is a considerable part of most people’s lives. Hearing allows us to interact with loved ones, and social connection is vital for cognitive health. If you have questions about your hearing abilities, speak to your doctor and get your hearing tested. And if you have already experienced hearing loss, hearing aids may be able to save the day.

Aly Castle

Aly is HappyNeuron Pro’s Content Specialist. She is passionate about mental health and well-being and loves utilizing her design background to share important cognitive information clearly and understandably.

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