Previous research has shown a link between hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia. A new study may offer additional insight into the structural brain changes hearing loss may cause.
Brain Changes in People with Alzheimer’s and Hearing Loss
The study from researchers at The Carle Illinois College of Medicine analyzed data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative database. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia.
They compared MRIs of people with AD and hearing loss to those with AD and normal hearing. They found a higher incidence of shrinkage in the brainstem and cerebellum in patients with both hearing loss and AD.
Researchers who led the study admitted to being surprised by the findings. They had expected to find changes in the frontal lobe, as that is where the brain processes language and sound.
“This is a surprising finding but one that relates to newer studies that link Alzheimer’s Disease with dysfunction in auditory function which requires cerebellar activation,” said Susie Kwok, medical student and collaborator on the study.
Hopefully, these findings can lead to earlier detection methods and treatments for those with dementia and hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Affects Cognition
Untreated hearing loss can put extra stress on the brain. Because you don’t pick up sounds as well as you used to your brain is essentially forced to put in extra work just to follow conversations at work or in social settings.
This mental fatigue causes some people with hearing loss to isolate themselves from other people. However, when you do that, you deprive your brain of the stimulation it gets when you interact with others at church or The Ranch Restaurant.
Can Hearing Aids Protect Your Brain?
Hearing aids may help you prevent or delay the onset of cognitive decline or dementia.
Because they make it easier for you to process sound and speech, they relieve the extra burden hearing loss was placed on your brain. Not only does this help you avoid mental fatigue, but it also increases your confidence in your ability to socialize and build relationships with others. This makes it less likely that you will socially isolate.
If you have signs of hearing loss, make it a priority to protect your ears and your brain. Call Nelson Hearing Clinics and schedule an appointment for a hearing test today.