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Hearing Loss Linked to Cognitive Decline, Dementia.

 

We Hear with our brains, not our ears.

 

… people with hearing loss … more likely to develop dementia than adults with normal hearing.

 

As people move through middle age and their later years, Wingfield suggested, it is reasonable for them to get their hearing tested annually. If there is a hearing loss, it is best to take it seriously and treat it.

Hearing Loss linked to Mental Decline, Dementia.
 

People whose hearing was already impaired at the start of the sub-study had accelerated rates of brain atrophy compared to those with normal hearing.

 

Hearing loss is so common that it's long been considered a normal part of the aging process and no great cause for alarm. But studies from Johns Hopkins University have found links between hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia. That means that it may be a greater health threat than imagined and that measures as simple as hearing aids could have a huge influence on healthy brain function.


– Johns Hopkins University.

 

A 2011 study of some 600 older adults found that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia than adults with normal hearing. In fact, the more severe the hearing loss, the more likely they were to develop dementia; volunteers with mild, moderate and severe loss were two, three and five times more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing.

 

The link is backed by other researchers at University of Utah Health Care, studied more than 4,400 men and women 65 and older; those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study (published in 2014) developed dementia at a higher rate and earlier than those without hearing loss.

 

How hearing loss affects cognitive function

 

We “hear” with our brain, not with our ears.

 

When we have a hearing loss, the connections in the brain that respond to sound become reorganized. Fortunately, for many people, hearing aids can provide the sound stimulation needed for the brain to restore the normal organization of connections to its “sound center” so it can more readily react to the sounds that it had been missing and cognitively process them. Brandeis University Professor of Neuroscience, Dr. Arthur Wingfield, has been studying cognitive aging and the relationship between memory and hearing acuity. He says unaddressed hearing loss not only affects the listener’s ability to “hear” the sound accurately, but it also affects higher-level cognitive function. Specifically, it interferes with the listener’s ability to accurately process the auditory information

and make sense of it.

 

In one study, Wingfield and his co-investigators found that older adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss performed poorer on cognitive tests than those of the same age who had good hearing.

 

Wingfield and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University in St. Louis also used MRI to look at the effect that hearing loss has on both brain activity and structure.

 

The study found that people with poorer hearing had less gray matter in the auditory cortex, a region of the brain that is necessary to support speech comprehension.

Wingfield has suggested the possibility that the participants’ hearing loss had a causal role.

He and his co-investigators hypothesize that when the sensory stimulation is reduced due to hearing loss, corresponding areas of the brain reorganize their activity as a result.

 

“The sharpness of an individual’s hearing has cascading consequences for various aspects of cognitive function,” said Wingfield. “We’re only just beginning to understand how far-reaching these consequences are."

 

"Even if you have just a mild hearing loss that is not being treated, cognitive load increases significantly,” Wingfield continued. “You have to put in so much effort just to perceive and understand what is being said that you divert resources away from storing what you have heard into your memory.”

 

As people move through middle age and their later years, Wingfield suggested, it is reasonable for them to get their hearing tested annually. If there is a hearing loss, it is best to take it seriously and treat it.

 

Better Hearing Institute.

 

(877) 361-0100

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