Untreated hearing loss can have many negative consequences. Research has shown that it can affect the way your brain works and impact cognition.
Research on How Hearing Loss Affects Your Brain
Multiple studies have found a connection between hearing loss and brain function. According to The National Library of Medicine, “There is ample evidence linking hearing loss to changes in cognitive ability, particularly when listeners are faced with the task of understanding speech that is acoustically or linguistically challenging.”
Additionally, concerns have been raised about hearing loss and the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. A study out of Johns Hopkins tracked 639 adults for a period of 12 years and found that not only did hearing loss increase a person’s risk of dementia, but the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the risk.
Why Does This Happen?
The mechanisms by which hearing loss affects the brain are not fully understood. However, researchers have some general ideas as to what is responsible for the connection.
- Lack of stimulation. When you have hearing loss, the parts of your brain that process speech and other sounds don’t get as much stimulation as they did when you had normal hearing. This decreased input into the brain leads to less processing and contributes to a decline in cognition.
- Cognitive overload. As hearing becomes more difficult, your brain has to work harder to process and understand sound, and your brain starts to work less efficiently. This cognitive overload can lead to mental fatigue and affect your cognition.
- Isolation. Because hearing makes understanding speech more difficult, many people with hearing loss start to avoid social situations and isolate themselves from others. Isolation both deprives your brain of stimulation and has been associated with a faster rate of cognitive decline.
Treat Your Hearing Loss to Protect Your Brain
The potential cognitive consequences of hearing loss highlight the importance of treating your hearing loss. If you’ve noticed that you’re having trouble hearing when watching TV, talking with coworkers or spending time with friends out at Tropical Burger, schedule an appointment for a hearing test.
If your results indicate that you have hearing loss, you and your audiologist will work together to find the right pair of hearing aids or other assistive listening devices that best meet your needs. Not only will your hearing improve, but it will benefit your brain as well!
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact Elevate Audiology today.