New studies coming out of our collaborators at Johns Hopkins Medicine determined that brain shrinkage is accelerated in older adults with hearing loss, says Joan Steinsky, M.Cl.Sc. Reg. CASLPO, the audiologist at Medcan.
“Research showed that subjects with hearing loss had cognitive abilities that declined 30 to 40 percent faster than those whose hearing was normal. These studies support the importance of addressing the problem of under diagnosis and under treatment of hearing loss.”
Levels of declining brain function were directly related to the amount of hearing loss. On average, older adults with hearing loss developed a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.
While more research is necessary, in those who wore hearing aids the cognitive decline was less and comparable to those with normal hearing.
Treating hearing issues early protects decision making abilities
Studies show hearing aids can help prevent compensatory changes in the brain and leave those areas available for the higher level decision making. Devices are smaller and more sophisticated than ever.
“Because adult onset hearing loss is most often a gradual process, it may not be immediately noticeable to the person affected. Family members are often the first to suspect the hearing loss,” says Steinsky.
So the next time a family member or close friend makes note of your hearing, consider it a helpful nudge. Actively treating hearing could help stave off cognitive decline and dementia.