September is World Alzheimer’s Month, hosted by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). ADI is an umbrella organization connecting over 100 Alzheimer’s associations from around the world. This year’s focus is on diagnosis, thanks to recent developments in the treatment and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. ADI says that when we ‘Know Dementia’ and ‘Know Alzheimer’s,’ we “can be armed with the information, advice, and support that helps [us] to prepare and adapt.”

In July of 2020, The Lancet reiterated 12 important modifiable risk factors for dementia, including:


  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Head injury
  • Air pollution
  • Less education
  • Hypertension
  • Hearing impairment
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Infrequent social contact

They indicated that addressing these modifiable risk factors could delay or entirely prevent up to 40% of dementia cases.

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s / Dementia

Hearing loss is a major factor in the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s, with the risk increasing with the severity of the hearing loss. Those with severe hearing loss are 5 times more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing, while moderate hearing loss increases the risk threefold.

The increased risk of dementia seems to be a mediated risk, rather than resulting directly from hearing loss. This means that simply having hearing loss does not make a person more likely to develop dementia—it is the inability to hear, and the changes that hearing loss can engender, that increase the risk. Those who cannot hear normally tend to be more exhausted at the end of a day and have more trouble sleeping. They tend to see less social activity, and when they do it is more exhausting and they struggle to engage.

A set of hearing aids effectively restores hearing ability and returns a hearing aid wearer’s risk of dementia to that of a normal-hearing person. The increased exhaustion and social isolation that is seen in those with hearing loss are, likewise, eliminated. Those who get hearing aids even have a higher anecdotal assessment of their own memories, while those with even mild untreated hearing loss tend to report having more memory issues.

Hearing Aid Training Programs

When hearing loss sets in, the brain starts to undergo changes in the auditory cortex. As less information comes in from the ears, there is less activity in the auditory cortex. Over time, the auditory cortex begins to collapse in on itself. It’s not that brain cells “die,” but the structure that supports them shrinks in size. This neuroplasticity can cause someone to lose the ability to understand speech.


The ability to understand speech can be regained, but not without effort. Training programs are available for new wearers, many of which can be taken online, that help regrow the auditory cortex and restore the ability to comprehend speech again. It has been noted in studies that these training programs are crucial to reducing the risk of dementia. When hearing loss has been an issue for many years, simply starting to wear hearing aids is not enough to immediately reverse the increased risk of dementia.

Hearing Aids Are Better Than Ever

Hearing aid manufacturers have more resources than ever to make their hearing aids more functional than was ever thought possible. The continuously shrinking size of computer chips and batteries, as well as advanced plastics and metal alloys, allows them to improve the standard at regular intervals. Hearing aids today can reduce background noise better than ever while enhancing speech and directionality. Many models can even automatically adjust their programming for different environments as you move! While they seem to be more complicated than ever, the result is an easier experience for the wearer at the same time.

Hearing aid wearers are not only reducing their risk for dementia. When asked after one year, about 95% of hearing aid wearers say they’re satisfied with their hearing aids. They tend to report getting better sleep and being generally less tired. They’re at a lower risk for depression and tend to report a higher sense of optimism about not only their own lives but the state of the world in general.

Kenwood Hearing Centers

If you or a loved one has been having issues with hearing, there’s never been a better time to start treating hearing loss with hearing aids. Schedule a hearing test today and start taking the steps you need to take to hear – and live – better than ever!

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