Recently, several studies have come to light revealing the link between hearing loss and memory loss, but what does that really mean? There are several factors to take into account concerning the relationship between memory loss and hearing loss. First is a connection with hearing loss and cognitive decline, secondly, seniors with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing, and thirdly the link between hearing loss and accelerated brain tissue loss. Let’s discuss.
When we listen to sounds and conversation we “hear” with our brains, not our ears. When an individual experiences hearing loss the connections in the brain that respond to sound get scrambled and reorganized. This reorganization creates a decrease in cognitive function, but there is good news! Fortunately for many people, hearing aids can provide the sound stimulation needed for the brain to restore the normal organization of connections to the “sound center” so it can more readily react to the sounds that it had been missing and reinstate the ability to cognitively process them. Decline in brain function can lead to memory loss, but hearing aids may be able to combat the process that leads to cognitive decline.
Hearing Loss and Dementia
A study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging suggests that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those with their hearing intact. Though researchers do not yet have a solid reason for the link behind the two conditions, it has been suggested that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may put extra stress on the brain, leaving those with hearing loss vulnerable to dementia. Another reason for the connection may be that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, which has been known to be a risk factor for cognitive disorders. Study leader Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., commented that, “a lot of people ignore hearing loss because it’s such a slow and insidious process as we age, even if people feel as if they are not affected, we’re showing that it may well be a more serious problem.”
Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss
Lastly, although the brain becomes smaller with age, the shrinking appears to be accelerated in older adults with hearing loss. Another study conducted by the John Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging found that participants whose hearing was already impaired at the beginning of the study had accelerated rates of brain atrophy compared to those with normal hearing. The shrinking brain areas might be a consequence of a weakened auditory cortex, which deteriorate from lack of stimulation. Lin explains that the results “suggest that hearing loss could be another ‘hit’ on the brain in many ways.”
So what do all these connections between memory and hearing loss mean? It means there should be a level of urgency to treating hearing loss rather than ignoring it. In order to take your memory health seriously you must take your hearing health seriously! Call us at Valley Hearing Center today to schedule your free hearing evaluation so you can get your hearing health on track and keep your brain sharp!
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