Hearing loss can bring a lot of change to your life. But did you know that hearing loss can change the health of your brain?
Recent research, conducted over several years by Johns Hopkins University, Ohio State University, and other institutions, has revealed that hearing loss causes changes to your brain that have been linked to cognitive decline and even dementia. This is due to the brain-hearing (or auditory) pathway, which carries sound to your brain for processing. If you aren’t hearing sounds properly, your brain can’t properly process the message and that pathway begins to breakdown over time.
According to Johns Hopkins expert Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D.: “Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain. Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia.”
Hearing and Social Settings
Untreated hearing loss can quickly alter your relationships with your spouse, family, friends, and coworkers. You may often ask people to repeat themselves or talk louder, which can lead to frustration for all involved. As hearing loss progresses, you might even find yourself avoiding social situations, especially in loud settings, to prevent problems with hearing and understanding conversation.
Hearing and Balance
Your balance and gait can also be affected by hearing loss. When you walk, your ears pick up subtle cues that help with balance but hearing loss mutes these important signals and makes your brain work harder just to process sound. Most people don’t realize their intuitive multitasking may be interfering with their mental processing needed to walk safely.
Hearing Aids and the Brain
Honestly, there is no downside to using hearing aids, especially when it comes to supporting your hearing and brain health. Hearing aids enhance your ability to hear sounds that were lost due to hearing loss, helping to restore that cognitive activity that is crucial to maintaining your brain health. But hearing aid users wait, on average, 10 years before getting help for hearing loss and during that time, their brain hearing, or auditory pathway suffers and health risks increase.
A lot of people who wait too long tend to feel cognitive fatigue once they start using hearing aids after a prolonged time of hearing loss because their brain isn’t used to having to process normal sounds that most people are used to.
Hearing loss can become increasingly more serious over time, so it is important to prioritize your hearing health the same way you do visual or oral health. If you think you have hearing loss or if a loved one has hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can perform a hearing evaluation, go over your needs and any concerns you may have. It is our top priority to help you understand your specific hearing condition and guide you to the best possible solution.
If you have any additional questions about your hearing and brain health, please contact us today!