How Treating Hearing Loss Supports Your Brain

In Hearing Loss by Michael L. Schneller, HIS

Michael L. Schneller, HIS

Michael’s father, Lee F. Schneller, started his first hearing clinic in Garden City, Kansas in 1971. The foundation of hearing aid knowledge Michael acquired while working in the state of Kansas helped pave the way so Michael could expand his studies in California, Minnesota, and Florida.
Michael L. Schneller, HIS

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If we don’t care for our total health and understand that it is all connected, every other part of our health can suffer. Hearing loss is no exception. The brain is responsible for processing and sending signals every part of our bodies. While hearing loss affects our ability to hear, not treating hearing impairment has been linked to changes in our brain. Numerous studies now connect how hearing loss affects our brains.

Consequences of Hearing Loss to Brain Health

It is hard to keep track of how much your hearing may be declining as hearing loss will often increase in small increments over time. The connection between developing dementia years down the road certainly can seem like a stretch to connect to untreated hearing loss but many studies prove this connection to be all too real. In the same way that increases in blood pressure can damage arteries and cause problems anywhere in the body, hearing loss can diminish stimulation and slowly cause damage to the brain.

A 2013 study by Johns Hopkins University found that those with hearing loss acquired a 30-40 percent faster decline in cognitive function compared to those with normal hearing. The study also showed that the rate of cognitive decline was greater as hearing loss increased. Hearing loss can result in social isolation and depression, which can cause people to shut down, stop challenging them selves, and in turn stop challenging their mind. Hearing loss can cause the brain to shift resources away from memory and thinking to process sounds that become more and more of a challenge to hear. The saying “ if you don’t use it, you are going to lose it” rings very true in these instances.

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is, in effect, the brain’s ability to change at any age. A study done at the University of Colorado’s Department of Speech Language and Hearing Science, examined at how the brain reorganizes itself by forming new neuron connections throughout life.  The research found when hearing loss occurs, areas of the brain devoted to senses such as vision or touch will take over the areas of the brain, which normally process hearing. This phenomenon is called cross-modal cortical reorganization and is reflective of the brain’s tendency to compensate for the loss of other senses.

Cross-Modal Cortical Reorganization

When hearing loss occurs, the brain has to overcompensate for this lost sense in some way. By placing additional emphasis on other senses like touch and vision, this process leads to fatigue and adversely affects concentration. When a person experiences hearing loss, the area of the brain that processes sound begins to deteriorate. This leads to problems understanding speech and language. Because the brain has to overcompensate for these weakening brain functions, higher-level thinking is forfeited for speech understanding. This can lead to a host of other problems, including the possible acceleration of dementia.

Hearing Aids can Help

Hearing aids can simulate healthy hearing, which can help with every aspect of bodies. When hearing aids enable people to hear properly again, the hearing centers of our brains can be re-stimulated. The brain’s higher functions do not have to overcompensate for failing senses and can continue to focus on bigger ideas and dreams.

Seeking Treatment Earlier

The sooner you treat your hearing loss the better. Intervention in the early stages of hearing loss can prevent brain reorganization that can cause mental decline. If the hearing loss is corrected early, there is no need for the brain to rewire itself in favor of other senses. The hearing aid wearer can benefit from the stimulation of sound, while still maintaining a healthy brain function.

Deal with your Hearing Loss Today

Despite the importance of early intervention, many people suffering from hearing loss do not seek treatment. Some people live in denial that they are even suffering from hearing loss and delay treatment for years. Every year that passes for an individual with hearing loss is year more of progressed emotional and mental decline. If you suspect that you are dealing with hearing loss, no mater how slight don’t delay seeking solid answers and find out if you could benefit from hearing aids. Contact us at Focus Hearing to set up a hearing test today. Don’t wait any longer and take the steps to protect your brain and your total health, into the future.