If you are experiencing hearing loss in Concord, you’re already dealing with plenty of challenges in your daily life. In addition to many well-known risk factors associated with hearing loss, your odds of developing memory impairment are also higher.
Hearing and Cognition
Cognitive ability naturally diminishes as we age. Changes in the brain’s overall volume lead to gradual declines in certain key areas such as memory, concentration and thinking skills. It’s a normal part of the aging process, much like wrinkles and yelling at your neighbor’s kids to get off the lawn.
Mild cognitive impairment is sort of a middle ground between normal, age-related decline and more serious conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. People with hearing loss in Concord are more likely to experience these negative effects – especially if they don’t seek treatment.
Many studies have been done that point to a positive correlation between hearing loss and problems with memory and cognition. One such study, led by a team of researchers from Johns-Hopkins University, followed 2,000 older adults over a six-year timeframe.
When the study began, none of them showed signs of cognitive impairment. They were given hearing and cognitive tests in the fifth year of the study and results were compared with baseline scores developed at the outset.
The results, published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2013, showed an undeniable link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Participants who began the study with hearing loss that was bad enough to interfere with their daily conversational ability experienced cognitive decline at a rate 24 percent higher than that of the normal-hearing population. For these individuals, poor memory was often the first telltale sign.
Reasons Why Hearing and Memory are Related
Researchers don’t have one solid, definitive answer explaining the correlation between hearing loss and memory decline, but enough studies have been completed to give them a pretty good idea why the two are linked.
For starters, the brain plays a significant role in the hearing process, assigning meaning to the sounds collected by the ears. When there is a decline in hearing ability, the brain must work harder to decode this information. Doing so comes at the expense of other key areas including memory and cognition.
Furthermore, many people with hearing loss retreat from social activities. Withdrawal and isolation are predominant in those with impaired hearing; often, the stress and fatigue that accompany social activities prove overwhelming. Instead of going out and interacting with friends and loved ones, these individuals spend time by themselves. This lack of stimulation exacerbates brain shrinkage, speeding up memory decline.
Hearing aids help counteract this by easing the burden on the brain. Instead of focusing so much attention on trying to hear, it can instead use resources in other key areas such as memory and cognition.
For more information on preventing hearing loss and its associated complications, speak to your Concord audiologist today.