How Treating Hearing Loss Supports Your Brain

Bary E. Williams Au.D. Brain Health

Treating hearing loss does a lot more than improve your abilities to hear (which is itself no small task). Being attentive to your hearing loss, and going about the best treatment for it, is proving to be essential to keeping your brain as healthy as possible.

Hearing Loss and the Brain

Hearing loss impacts several crucial functions of your brain. Your brain reorganizes in order to compensate for hearing loss. When you are experiencing hearing loss (especially when it goes untreated) the other areas of your brain that are devoted to sight or touch can diminish as your brain devotes its energy to the loss of hearing. Your brain can eventually adapt to this new balancing act, ensuring that all of your five senses are working in harmony, but there can also be serious cognitive effects that arise. It is thereby quite important to treat hearing loss in order to maintain and increase healthy brain function.

Thinking through the relationships between hearing loss and cognitive health is especially important when considering older people. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) highlights that one out of three people between the ages of 65 and 74 experience some degree of hearing loss—nearly 50 percent for people who are 75 and older.

Johns Hopkins researchers who published their findings in study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people with hearing loss experience declines in thinking skills faster than among those without it. They based their findings on six years of research involving almost 2,000 volunteers over the age of 70. They administered the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination to these volunteers, which is a test assessing cognitive impairment. Based on their results, the researchers estimated that people with normal hearing would take about 11 years to develop cognitive impairment. This finding was quite different for older adults with hearing loss, however: researchers estimated older people develop cognitive impairment in under eight years. While there is not a definitive, causal link between hearing loss and cognitive impairment, there is certainly a relationship.

The Importance of Treating Hearing Loss

There are many ways to treat hearing loss—and the benefits to your brain health are important no matter how old you are. Hearing assistance devices of course help your hearing, but they also stimulate brain activity in many ways. Isabelle Mosnier of Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris in France conducted a study of 94 people between 65 and 85 years old, publishing it in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Mosnier and her team focused on participants with profound deafness in at least one ear, fitting them a cochlear implant. Then, two times a week, the researchers conducted auditory rehabilitation with the participants. Mosnier and her colleagues found that more than 80 percent of people who had the lowest cognitive scores demonstrated significant improvement just one year after receiving the cochlear implant.

Treating hearing loss improves cognitive health for people in other ways, too, especially people experiencing anxiety and depression. Untreated hearing loss affects people’s abilities to hear friends, loved ones, and coworkers, and can make them reluctant to attend functions where many people will be talking at once, or where there is a lot of noise at once—making them feel socially anxious as well as socially isolated. Hearing loss can impede people’s abilities to do everyday things like answer the phone at work or participate in office meetings. No matter the setting, people with untreated hearing loss can experience nervousness and anxiety about having conversations for fear that they will talk too loudly or too softly because they cannot accurately assess the volume levels of those they are speaking with.

Exceptional Hearing Care

There are many ways to treat hearing loss, and doing so will not only affect one’s ability to hear but can diminish the effects of cognitive decline. The first step is to see a hearing health professional at Exceptional Hearing Care who will assess your hearing. we will help you to find a hearing aid that suits your hearing needs and that is the right price for you. With the support of your friends, family, and health practitioners, you will most certainly learn to create communication habits that make you feel connected to your surroundings, but you will also stave off potential cognitive declines as well. Contact us today!

Bary E. Williams Au.D.
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