October is National Audiology Awareness Month and it’s an opportune time to discuss the association that hearing loss has with dementia and falls as well as the impact that noise exposure can have on hearing loss.


The Negative Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss

Approximately 30 million Americans report mild or moderate hearing loss (adults and younger people) and about 20% have left it untreated. Untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression, heart issues, a compromised immune system, memory loss, falls, and dementia. A 2018 study involving more than 2,000 people 50 and over produced results suggesting hearing aids slowed the rate of progression of certain symptoms related to dementia. (NIH, ASHA, Beltone, Lancet Commissions)

Untreated hearing loss is one of nine risk factors for dementia which typically begins years prior to being recognized/diagnosed. Seniors that suffer with hearing loss are more likely to also develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who do not have hearing loss.

An increase from normal hearing to untreated mild hearing loss can triple the risk of falling. Lack of awareness, brain overload, and poor balance are contributing factors. (Jama Internal Medicine)

Untreated hearing loss impacts the brain and cognitive health. Scans indicate that brain matter atrophy occurs at a higher rate than those without hearing loss. In addition, when older adults have hearing loss, their brains have to work harder to hear, process, and interpret sound. With so much energy devoted to hearing, the brain may not be able to keep up with other functions such as memory, comprehension, concentration, etc. This is called Cognitive Overload. (Johns Hopkins Medicine)


Exposure to Excessively Loud Noise Can Permanently Damage Your Hearing

Fireworks display

Approximately 10 million Americans have hearing loss associated with noise-induced hearing loss. NIHL is permanent and cannot be reversed medically or surgically. Excessively loud sounds damage the tiny sensory receptors, or hair cells, in the inner ear. To prevent damage, avoid loud sounds or wear hearing protection.

How Much Noise is Damaging to Ears?
Normal conversation reaches 60-65 decibels. Lengthy or repeated exposure to noise above 85 decibels can damage your hearing:

  • Fireworks can reach up to 155 decibels
  • Jet plane taking off can be 150 decibels
  • Shooting a gun can reach 140-175 decibels
  • Music concerts and a high-volume MP3 player can reach 120 decibels
  • Movie action scenes in the theater can reach 100 decibels
  • Lawn mowers can reach 85 decibels
  • Chain saws can reach 115-120 decibels

Four Ways to Protect Your Hearing
E – earplugs
A – avoid loud sounds
R – reduce the level of sounds
S – shorten time in loud environments


Dr. Lana B. Patitucci, D.O.According to the NIH, “age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults aged 20-69, with the greatest amount of hearing loss in the 60 to 69 age group.” Given that 20% of those with hearing loss don’t seek treatment, it’s imperative to make them aware of the debilitating physiological and sociological effects that can ensue if hearing loss is left untreated.

Schedule an appointment with your ENT doctor or audiologist if you detect hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems. We will educate you about safe and unsafe listening levels as well as perform hearing evaluations and rehab sessions.

~ Dr. Lana B. Patitucci, D.O.