Did you know that your hearing, or lack thereof, can affect your memory?
People with poor hearing often mistakenly feel that their hearing loss only affects their ability to hear other people. They do not realize that hearing loss has a far greater impact. Over the last ten years there have been numerous studies linking hearing loss to decreased cognitive function and memory loss, when measured over time. One recent study at Johns Hopkins University found that over a ten-year time span, people with hearing loss showed signs of dementia three years sooner, on average, than those people of the same age but without hearing loss. Just think what three years can buy a person in terms of independence! (Archives of Neurology. 2011; 68:214).
Other significant findings of this study link hearing loss to cognitive decline using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans. Researchers found that untreated hearing impairment is associated with brain atrophy, specifically in the temporal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for hearing and processing of auditory information (spoken language). What this means is that people with hearing loss must work harder to hear, and over time that increased hearing effort affects our brain in more ways than we realize. When living with untreated hearing loss, the brain is not receiving enough sound to be adequately stimulated. This causes the brain to shrink, which can result in dementia. (Neuroimage.2014; 90:84-92)
Unfortunately, the costs of dementia are far greater than the costs of treating your hearing loss. If you find yourself or your loved one saying, “I hear what I want to hear” or “my hearing loss isn’t bad enough yet,” this information is very significant and worth serious consideration. Wearing hearing aids to treat your hearing loss will certainly play a role in preserving your cognitive health.