Any Audiologist or hearing health professional will tell a person experiencing hearing loss that it’s important to get hearing help. It’s as simple as that. From a subtle hearing loss to a severe hearing loss, maintaining good hearing health is the base you need to live a long, healthy brain life. There are so many statistics out there explaining the importance of treating hearing loss, especially in connection to long-term brain health. But, what about hearing aids? Do hearing aids really help improve brain health? The answer is yes.
Proven Benefits of Hearing Aids
There are a number of recent studies produced by top medical organizations showing that untreated hearing loss in mid- to late-life carries an increased risk of cognitive decline (brain health decline) and dementia.
A recent study published by the American Journal of Audiology found hearing aids improve brain function in people with hearing loss. According to study researcher, Dr. Jamie Desjardins, assistant professor of speech language pathology at the University of Texas at El Paso, “Hearing loss can interfere with cognitive abilities because so much brain effort is put toward understanding speech. Therefore, hearing aids can not only improve one’s ability to hear, but also restore lost brain function.”
The American Journal of Audiology study monitored participants ages 50-60 years old with bilateral sensor neural hearing loss. Bilateral sensor neural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. These participants never used hearing aids or sought any evaluation prior to the study.
Each hearing loss study participant was examined and tested to measure their working current memory, selective attention ability, and processing speed level. Each hearing loss study participant also wore hearing aids for an average of eight-hours per day for a six-month period of time. At the conclusion of the six-month period, the group of hearing loss study participants had improved working memory an average of 14 percent. The group of hearing loss study participants improved their selective attention an average of 20 percent. And, processing speed increased an average of from 1.4 seconds to 1.2 seconds. All this from wearing hearing aids for only 6 months.
Additionally, there have been two recent studies released by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, which determined that older adults with hearing loss are considerably more likely to suffer from dementia than those who preserve and maintain their hearing capabilities. Additionally, one of these studies concluded that there is a definitive link between hearing loss and accelerated brain tissue loss. The research from this study determined that for senior-aged people with hearing loss also experience more rapid brain tissue loss, compared to those with normal hearing capabilities.
According to Brandeis University Professor of Neuroscience, Dr. Arthur Wingfield, “unaddressed hearing loss does more than disrupt the listener’s ability to hear sounds accurately. It also seriously affects their higher-level cognitive [brain] function, by interfering with the sound-processing centers of their brains.” One study involving Dr. Wingfield determined that older adults experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss showed weaker performance on cognitive tests compared to those of the same age who had good hearing. “Even if you have just a mild hearing loss that is not being treated, cognitive load increases significantly. A person with hearing loss has to put in so much effort just to perceive and understand what is being said that the person with hearing loss diverts resources away from storing what was heard into memory.”
Dr. Wingfield concluded that when sensory stimulation is reduced because of hearing loss, this results in brain ‘reorganization’ which has long-term consequences for cognitive [brain] health.
Is Hearing Loss Common?
Hearing loss is a very common condition, especially in older adults. Although hearing loss can hugely impact many areas of your life, if you choose to leave your hearing loss untreated, it can actually be even more detrimental to living a long healthy brain life.
Did you know that the majority of people experiencing hearing loss do not wear hearing aids? Several years ago this was what we did. Today however, the increasing number of people living with hearing loss has increased substantially. In fact, less than a quarter of people with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing instruments actually wear them.
On average, it takes a person with hearing loss about seven years to seek treatment for their hearing loss. Unfortunately, that period of time allows for a significant period of cognitive [brain] decline that could be prevented. We actually hear with more than just our ears. We hear with our brain as well. Hearing loss can cause the connections in our brain to become reordered and confused, but hearing aids can help by preventing this reordering from occurring.
According to Dr. Wingfield, “preventing compensatory brain organization by wearing hearing aids could be a vital way of preventing cognitive decline as we move through middle age… annual hearing tests and early hearing loss screening programs for adults could make a significant impact when it comes to preventing the onset of dementia.”
Hearing Aids in Rhode Island
At Physicians Hearing Solutions, we offer specialized hearing help from determining a hearing loss to finding the right hearing solution for your lifestyle and budget. Physicians Hearing Solutions also offers patients the choice of seeing one of our professionals. Our hearing healthcare professionals offer patients a clear path to better hearing health combined with specialized hearing support services. Each of the Physicians Hearing Solutions team member’s value providing a superior patient experience and quality hearing healthcare services to all patients, every time. Schedule your free hearing screening today: (401) 921-0181 or find us online at: www.phsdocs.com.