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Connections Between Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Hearing Loss

A degree of hearing loss is a common occurrence among people over the age of 65. In fact, according to the National Institute of Aging, around one out of three adults who are 65-74 years old struggle with hearing loss. That hearing loss number goes to one out of two when adults pass the age of 75.

These facts become more disturbing due to the strong connection that has been found between hearing loss and progressive cognitive decline. Our doctors of audiology regularly consult scholarly literature and want to share what connections exist between hearing loss and cognitive decline as well as how you and your loved ones can avoid them.

Research Connects Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss

Over the last decade, more studies have begun investigating how hearing loss can affect cognitive decline. John Hopkins researchers discovered that over a six-year period, their volunteers who had hearing loss suffered from 30-40 percent faster cognitive decline than those volunteers who had normal hearing levels.

That rate of decline alone is alarming, but the research doesn’t end there. Another study from John Hopkins medical scientists linked hearing loss to an accelerated loss of brain tissue. Some areas of the brain which suffered the most from tissue loss were the areas in charge of processing speech and sound.

None of the researchers were surprised by this information. When the auditory nerve doesn’t receive sounds to transmit to the brain, the muscles in-charge of processing those transmitted sounds begin to atrophy.

Also, as these areas also play a role in memory development and sensory processing, the loss of brain tissue contributes to cognitive decline and are strongly linked to memory problems like Alzheimer’s disease.

We also did not want to discount how hearing loss can contribute to cognitive decline in ways other than purely physical effects. A more sociological study found that hearing loss had a high impact on the quality of life of those older adults who struggled with any level of hearing loss. As they lacked the ability to hear well, these adults felt socially isolated, leaving many of them feeling like they were trapped in their homes and suffered from depression. Since these are all factors in cognitive decline, it is clear that hearing loss can have a layered effect on correct brain functionality.

How Hearing Aids Can Combat Cognitive Decline

Hearing aids are the number one way to treat sensorineural hearing loss and using these hearing devices can also help combat progressive cognitive decline.

A 23-year study reported on the effects of hearing loss on cognitive skills and how using hearing aids helped those who used them. For study participants who wore hearing aids, none-to-minimal amounts of cognitive impairment were detected. However, those participants who did not wear hearing aids had high levels of cognitive impairment. The study concluded that those with hearing impairment could highly benefit from using hearing aids.

Another group of researchers determined that hearing aids assisted with cognition and could have positive effects on the mental health and social life of those who used them. So, hearing aids can help fight against multiple triggers of cognitive decline.

Ways To Prevent Hearing Loss-Induced Cognitive Decline

There are some clear actions you can take to actively prevent hearing loss-induced cognitive decline. Ways our doctors of audiology would recommend are:

  • Yearly hearing tests – Adults in their late 50s to their early 60s should start having annual comprehensive hearing tests. This precaution can help prevent the early stages of cognitive decline as our hearing specialists can catch your hearing loss quickly.
  • Fitted hearing aids – Properly fitted hearing aids, adjusted for your hearing needs, can help stave off cognitive and reverse some of the effects of cognitive decline if you or a loved one has begun to suffer from lowered brain functionality.

Hearing & Balance Doctors Can Help Correct Hearing Loss

If you are ready to take control of your hearing and cognitive ability, contact us today to set up an appointment with one of our doctors of audiology. Our hearing specialists are highly trained and experienced, giving them a greater ability to address your hearing and balance needs.

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