Most people think that we hear with our ears when in actuality, it is our brains that process and decode the sounds that come through our ears. This process is called auditory processing. That means that when someone has a hearing impairment it forces the brain to work harder to try to decode and process the sound to make sense of it. It is believed that the extra work this process causes it part of the reason that there is a link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline.
Ongoing Research Continues to Uncover Details
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have some ongoing research studies looking into the connection between hearing and our brains. Their research suggests that older adults who have hearing loss could have an increased risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The research also suggests that the more profound the hearing loss is, the higher the risk of dementia. It might explain why instances of dementia are increasing; we know that hearing loss is definitely increasing.
Scientists note that the presence of hearing loss isn’t what causes the cognitive decline, but rather an unknown connection or cause. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging noted in their study findings that another connection, those study participants with hearing loss had accelerated rates of brain atrophy compared with those who had normal hearing. Other theories as to why there is a link between hearing loss and dementia include:
- A Change in Brain Function
- Mental Capacity is Taxed because of Cognitive Overload
- Social Isolation
The good news is that because there is a known connection, this leaves open the possibility that preventing and treating hearing loss can stave off cognitive decline. This means protecting your hearing from noise-induced hearing loss is more important than ever. In addition, this is one more reason to get regular hearing checkups and wear hearing aids if they are prescribed.
Hearing, Balance, & Speech Center is Here to Help You with all Your Listening Needs
Have more questions about hearing loss? Please contact us at Hearing, Balance, & Speech Center to speak with one of our hearing professionals or schedule an appointment. We are here to help you and take care of all your listening needs.