Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Dr. Alexandra Tarvin Dementia & Alzheimer's Leave a Comment

Dr. Alexandra Tarvin
Latest posts by Dr. Alexandra Tarvin (see all)

Learning disabilities are often misdiagnosed. It is a known fact that hearing loss can impact one’s ability to learn properly. This is especially true of how children hear sounds. How does hearing actually work?

How Hearing Works

Hearing isn’t just about sounds that you pick up with your ear. In fact, hearing takes place in the brain. Although sound funnels into the ear canal, it’s the final process that determines whether or not someone is learning something properly.

Sound causes the eardrum to vibrate, and the hair cells at one end send low pitched sound information to the other end. These hair cells on the opposite end process high-pitched sound information.

Sound makes it journey through what are known as ossicles. Once the sound travels here, it then travels into the cochlea. This small-shaped structure is filled with fluid in the inner ear. When the fluid inside the cochlea ripples, a wave will begin to form around the basilar membrane.

The auditory nerve then sends the signals to the brain, and this is where sounds are interpreted. If you are experiencing hearing loss, does this mean that you are suffering from sensorineural hearing loss?

Understanding Sensorineural Hearing Loss

One major aspect of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss. This is defined as hearing loss that is restricted to the inner ear. The cochlea and the structures that are attached to the cochlea are involved in this type of hearing loss.

There is a nerve that is impacted by this loss, the vestibulocochlear nerve. This nerve may even become worn away over time, unable to sense sounds of any kind. This issue inside the ear is responsible for nearly 90% of hearing loss.

Although there is no cure for this type of hearing loss, there are treatment options available. Once an official diagnosis has been given after an assessment, imaging may be required for further study.

The symptoms often include ringing in the ears, as well as speech delays for children. When they are at the age that they should be developing speech, a good initial indicator is that they aren’t making the effort to form words.

Studies on Cognitive Decline and Untreated Hearing Loss

It has been proven that when hearing loss is left untreated, cognitive decline begins. This is especially true for adults as they age. As adults age, they will become less stimulated by listening to the radio or even watching television if they are unable to hear it.

Memory seems to decline with hearing loss as well. This may be attributed to the fact that certain songs or other things an individual can hear stimulate memories of friends and loved ones. Those who are already using hearing aids did not have this problem. Sadly, the social impact of hearing loss may contribute to a less active social life.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

There are some examples of when hearing loss can be prevented. Those who produce a large amount of ear wax may suffer from hearing loss. In this case, the hearing loss is reversed.

There are also cases in which hearing loss can be due to abnormalities of the ear. There are cases in which the eardrum is malformed, or perhaps the bone structures inside the ear are not properly shaped. Surgical treatment can improve hearing loss in this case.

Cognitive Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

There are numerous cognitive benefits of treating hearing loss. Some of the cognitive benefits include hearing sounds from music and surrounding conversations.

This gave these individuals the ability to hear others talking, and caused them to think about how they would respond. This stimulates brain activity, and it also spurs memories to come to the surface.

One of the primary reasons hearing loss needs to be addressed early on, is due to the fact that it may impair speech if it is left untreated. Ideally, addressing hearing loss is the key to keeping speech up to par. Over time, one’s ability to speak well can be impacted with hearing loss.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to book an appointment with a hearing specialist. If you are starting to experience hearing loss, or you are the loved one of someone who has hearing loss, call a hearing specialist today to get a hearing test.

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