Hearing loss due to aging is a common condition that impacts many older adults. While you might think that the only side effect of hearing loss is not being able to hear well, that isn’t the case. Untreated hearing loss can cause issues with your social and emotional connections; but it can also cause a loss of brain function that studies show can increase your chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Since this month is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, we are shedding some light on the connection between your brain and hearing. You may not realize that your brain is what actually processes the sounds that you hear. In other words, it is actually your brain that hears, not your ears. Read on to find out about the latest studies and research being done to explore the connection between untreated hearing loss and the brain.
Untreated Hearing Loss
It is important to note that it is not the presence of hearing loss that causes Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is the taxing of the brain when hearing loss goes untreated that causes the problem. Research from John Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging shows that the longer you have untreated hearing loss, the greater the chance you have of your brain forgetting how to interpret sounds and speech. Researchers believe that the brain acts similar to how muscles do when you don’t use them and almost “loses the muscle memory”. This is what makes seeking treatment for your hearing loss of the utmost importance. Not only will you be able to hear and communicate better, but it keeps your brain functioning optimally.
The Connection between Untreated Hearing Loss and the Brain
As we mentioned already, it isn’t hearing loss that causes issues with the brain including dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, but the results of the brain trying to process sounds the ear can’t hear properly that taxes the brain. Researchers have been working on solving this puzzle for years and so far, they have several theories as to why:
- Change in Brain Function: The stress of auditory processing when sounds cannot be heard or decoded might actually change the brain structure as a result of the strain.
- Cognitive Load: This refers to how the brain has to work harder to try to process sounds and researchers believe the the rest of the cognitive functions suffer as a result and cannot work optimally.
- Social Isolation: We already know that hearing loss can cause social isolation simply because of the communication issues; however, that social isolation over time can lead to mental health issues and that might be what causes loss of brain function.
- Unknown Cause: Research is still ongoing and since so much is unknown about the human brain, researchers concede that the connection between hearing loss and the brain is yet to be discovered.
Consult with the Experts at Smithtown / Sayville Hearing Services
If you want to learn more, or have questions before your appointment, just let us know. Have you noticed a decline in your ability to hear as well as you used to? If so, contact us today to schedule a FREE assessment. We’d love to see you and answer anything you’ve got for us. Getting your hearing on track is our goal. Here at Smithtown Hearing Services we are committed to better hearing and committed to you!