How Hearing Loss can Lead to Brain Atrophy

It’s commonly known that with old age, a decline in hearing occurs. However, there are more reasons than ever why you should protect your hearing as you get on in years. There are definitely health benefits related to hearing well, but new evidence has come to light that shows that your hearing works in conjunction with others areas of your body too. Actually, our hearing is more vitally connected to other areas of our health than was first thought. We now know brain health is tied to hearing ability. Let’s look at this study and explore ways you can keep your hearing top notch, and thus your brain power.

Hearing Loss vs. the Brain

This particular study in question was a joint one explored by Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging, with a goal to administer MRIs and physicals to 126 people every year for 20 years. What did they find? A direct correlation between the size of the brain and hearing loss. Although many doctors and scientists already knew about brain shrinkage and old age, triggering conditions like dementia and diminished mental capacity, they now know hearing loss comes into play as well.
Taking an in-depth look at the condition of the patients’ brain as they aged over the 20 years, researchers detected a correlation between those who had some kind of hearing damage with brain atrophy. More specifically, the brains of individuals who had hearing loss reduced in size much more quickly than those who had no hearing impairments. The message here is that those with hearing loss risk greater chance for brain atrophy, and thus cognitive disorders and even the onset of dementia.
In explaining why this happens, it’s important to know how the brain works when faced with damage, such as hearing loss. The brain is a very complex organ and will attempt to compensate for any loss by causing damage to the gray matter. This in turn can set up other losses throughout the brain, leading to a largely decreased brain size. Taking more precautions in regards to hearing health is the top way people with impairments can guard against any future losses or at least reduce the risk.

Study Takeaways

Ensuring your hearing protection begins and ends with diligence in going to the doctor’s. This is the only way you can accurately track any possible changes in your hearing capacity. Having a baseline with which to fall back on is imperative on a year-to-year basis. That way, if a hearing impairment is detected – even a slight one – treatment can be applied and in come cases this can halt or reverse hearing loss. While those with hearing loss are urged to place a greater importance on hearing health, all people no matter how young or old should take their hearing health seriously. This means you need to be tested each year, but if you notice any sudden changes, this should prompt you to make an appointment with your doctor right away. Waiting or neglecting your hearing health could make a big difference in your cognitive capacity as you age.

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