Does Hearing Loss Shrink Your Brain?

by | Oct 31, 2013 | news

Does Hearing Loss Shrink Your Brain?

When you think about hearing loss, you probably think about not being able to hear conversations or music or TV shows. But the effects of untreated hearing loss go much further than that, and can cause damage whose effects can definitely be felt.

Hearing Loss Causes Brain Atrophy

Put simply, brain atrophy is a condition in which brain cells are lost or connections in the brain are damaged. It’s a “shrinking” of the brain – not necessarily in size, but in function. Many conditions can cause this “shrinking”, including Alzheimer’s Disease, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. People with hearing loss can also be susceptible to significant brain atrophy for multiple reasons. One reason is because they need to put in so much more effort to hear and understand speech compared to those with normal hearing. Another reason is that areas that are deprived of sound are not being used and begin to atrophy (use it or lose it!).

Hearing Aids Save Your Brain

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania note that when it comes to your hearing and you brain, hearing aids do more than just help you hear better. They can actually help preserve your brain function. People don’t all hear the same, and even people with moderate hearing loss may have to work a lot harder to understand complex sentences. This means less of the brain is hearing sounds, and more of the brain has to work to pick up the slack. A perfect disaster when it comes to brain atrophy.

Symptoms of Brain Atrophy

Symptoms of brain atrophy can be severe – things like dementia or memory loss, lack of motor control or seizures. But there are also generalized symptoms of brain atrophy, like changes in mood, disorientation, difficulty with judgment or abstract thinking and challenges with comprehension.

How Hearing Aids Help

Hearing aids can help tremendously with brain atrophy in the hearing impaired population because they can allow you to hear with more or all areas of your brain, and other areas of the brain don’t have to work harder to make sense of the sounds around you. Hearing aids allow your brain to process sound in as normal a way as possible, preserving brain function while allowing you to be fully present in your life.

This is just one more example of why hearing loss shouldn’t be treated lightly, or overlooked by you or your loved ones. Hearing aid technology has improved over the years, and they are now more discreet than ever. Newer models are virtually invisible! We know there is a hearing aid out there that is best for you.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Dr. Ana Anzola, CCC-A, FAAA, ABA Principal

Dr. Anzola received her Doctorate degree in Audiology (AuD) from the Arizona School of Health Sciences, and her Master’s Degree in Audiology and her Bachelor's Degree in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology from Towson University. She has been a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) since 1995, board-certified by the American Board of Audiology (ABA), and certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

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