For the Sake of the Brain, Treat Hearing Loss

There are troubling new studies that, if nothing else, emphasize the need to take hearing health seriously. The necessity of making regular hearing checkups and related treatment a priority is clearer and clearer.

What studies are showing is a strong correlation between hearing loss — especially untreated hearing loss — and the decline of cognitive functioning.

A study published in June of 2018 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society entitled “Longitudinal Relationship Between Hearing Aid Use and Cognitive Function In Older Americans” found that:

“… hearing aids may enable individuals improved auditory input which may delay cognitive decline ‘by preventing the adverse effects of auditory deprivation or facilitating lower levels of depression symptoms, greater social engagement and higher self-efficacy, which protect cognitive function.’”

In other words, being able to hear is crucial to communicating with people and feeling engaged in a community — which has direct benefits to the health of the brain.

This kind of link between hearing and brain function has been noted repeatedly in recent research.

For example, a 2014 joint study by the National Institute on Aging and Johns Hopkins Medicine found similar links between better overall health, including cognitive health, and sustaining hearing.

Published in 2014 as “Association of Hearing Impairment with Brain Volume Changes In Older Adults” in Neuroimage, the study analyzed MRI brain images and found that individuals with untreated hearing loss saw a greater shrinkage in their brain size — which is a natural occurrence in aging — than others.

According to its authors, the findings of the study:

“… demonstrate that peripheral hearing impairment is independently associated with accelerated brain atrophy in whole brain and regional volumes concentrated in the right temporal lobe.”

The authors highly recommend early treatment of hearing loss in order to curtail these effects.

What’s becoming clear is that better hearing is a “better quality of life” issue on more level than one.