The Unexpected Link Between Hearing Loss & Dementia

Let’s be real. If you’re a music lover, listening to loud music is fun—especially if you’re exercising, driving or trying to get pumped up. But sorry to burst your bubble…it may not be worth the risk.

Eh, Im fine with a little hearing loss. Gotta live your life! Plus, by the time I need hearing aids, I bet theyll be amazing.

Not so fast. Sure, hearing aids are improving all the time, but a slight loss of hearing isn’t the only risk you run by listening to loud music. It could potentially increase your risk for dementia and cognitive decline down the line, too.

The Hearing Loss-Dementia Connection

Interestingly, there is a strong link between mild hearing loss when you’re younger and the onset of dementia when you’re older. In fact, people with mild hearing loss before age 50 or so are twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

What does one thing have to do with the other? Glad you asked.

man holds his hand near ear and listens carefully

If you think about how we hear, our brains are very important to the entire process. The brain essentially processes and interprets the sound waves picked up by our ears into something we can comprehend. Generally, we only use half of our brain’s capacity for this when we’re younger (just the left frontal cortex), reserving the other half to kick in when we’re older and need the extra support. But with any hearing loss while we’re young, that right side of your brain’s processing center is forced to kick into gear to interpret the more challenging audio signals your brain is receiving.

This causes a slow-burning brain overload that can lead to exhaustion and eventual cognitive decline.

And the shocking thing is, even slight hearing loss that you’re unaware of could still be doing real damage. A recent study found that, in volunteers between the ages of 18 and 41, even an almost imperceptible loss of hearing caused unusual activity to spike in the right frontal cortex region of the brain—which shouldn’t kick into gear until age 50 or so.

This drains some of the brain’s finite resources for memory and attention earlier than anticipated. So if you’re already saying “What?” more often than you’d like, it’s important to start being more conscious of your volume control—and your brain health.

How to Protect Yourself

Think twice before blasting music in your earbuds. While it may be fun and get your heart thumping in the moment, it’s not worth losing your hearing (or your mental clarity) over.

In the meantime, be sure to feed your brain the antioxidants and fatty acids it needs to fight inflammation and stay healthy for the long haul.

Related on Care2:


Frances G
Past Member 5 days ago


Lara A
Lara A6 days ago

Thank you for sharing

Ilona Sheviakova

I'm sorry but it's worth losing my hearing and mental clarity. We all will lose it anyway and listening to loud music has sense: it makes our life worth living cause we can fully satisfy ourselves with music, Often we need to protect ourselves from extraneous noise in order to concentrate; music entertains us. You know, living is generally bad.

Kathy K
Kathy K8 days ago

Interesting. Thanks.

Linda W
Linda Wallace9 days ago

Thank you for the heads up.

Leanne K
Leanne K9 days ago

Or perhaps the dementia causes the hearing loss

Leanne K
Leanne K9 days ago

So earphones are most likely going to kick start dementia because too many people have the volume much too loud. Gee even city and suburban living subjects us to enormous noise loads

Susan Brandwein
Susan B10 days ago

Don''t crank it to !! !

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn11 days ago

Many thanks to you !

Mike R
Mike R11 days ago