How Can Hearing Loss Affect the Brain?
More common in adults, hearing loss affects nearly 500 million people worldwide and about 50 million people in the United States. Age, disease, certain medications, and exposure to loud sounds are among the common causes of hearing impairment. Any degree of hearing impairment can affect all aspects of daily life. Regardless of what may be causing or contributing to your auditory issues, it's important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
The good news is many people with hearing loss benefit from hearing aids – like the ones available from Beltone of Northwest Florida. But did you know hearing loss could also affect your brain in a way that hastens or worsens cognitive decline? Here's a closer look at how this can happen.
The Dementia Connection
According to the Hearing Journal, the risk of developing dementia-related conditions like Alzheimer's disease doubles for older adults who also have hearing loss. In fact, several studies have suggested a link between cognitive decline and hearing loss.
A Johns Hopkins research team also found a correlation between faster cognitive decline and hearing loss based on a multi-year study involving a few thousand seniors. Another large study found that men with hearing loss were more likely to express concerns about memory-related issues.
One other study focused on more than 4,000 older adults without dementia. As the study progressed, a greater percentage of participants with hearing loss later developed dementia. It took longer for the seniors without hearing loss to show signs of cognitive impairment.
Mimicking Cognitive Decline
It's also possible for hearing loss to mimic symptoms of Alzheimer's or other types of dementia. For instance, you might appear to be confused when somebody is talking to you if you can't fully hear what they're saying. Because of the link between dementia and hearing loss, however, it's important to take steps to maintain your cognitive clarity as you get older by:
- Getting regular exercise
- Watching your diet
- Considering hearing aids if you're starting to notice signs of hearing impairment
- Staying socially engaged
Hearing Loss and the Brain – What Happens?
It appears that hearing impairment may "shrink" parts of the brain that control hearing-related responses. In one study, older participants had brain scans while listening to different sentences.
Subjects with hearing loss had less active brain cell transmitters or neurons. They also had fewer neuronal cell bodies ("gray matter") in parts of the brain responsible for auditory processes. Other research shows older adults with hearing loss don't do as well as their younger counterparts on speech recognition tests.
What Can Hearing Aids Do?
There are no definitive evidence hearing aids can prevent dementia. However, improving hearing capabilities with appropriately adjusted and fitted hearing aids may delay the onset of cognitive decline.
No hearing aids are specially designed for dementia patients. There are, however, hearing aids from Beltone that are easy to wear and use if you or someone you love is living with dementia.
Call Us Today
Beltone of Northwest Florida offers a wide range of hearing aids, from basic styles to more advanced and discrete models. Even if your hearing issues are minor at the moment, err on the side of caution and get started with an initial evaluation to determine what option you have available. Call us today to find a hearing improvement solution that's right for you.