By Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D.
I am sure that you have noticed all the brain-training products that are now available to keep your mind sharp; however, you may want to consider something else: A hearing test.
More and more evidence links untreated hearing loss to impaired memory and diminished cognitive function. This means that if you keep ignoring your suspected hearing loss, your cognition may very well pay a heavy price for not treating your hearing loss.
Researchers have found that when people with an unaddressed hearing loss strain to hear, they also tend to do more poorly on memory tests. They may figure out what is being said, but because so much effort goes into just hearing it, their ability to remember what they heard often suffers.
Experts believe this has to do with what they call “cognitive load.” That is, in order to compensate for the hearing loss and make out the words, people with untreated hearing loss may use cognitive resources they would normally use to remember what they’ve heard. Experts say that untreated hearing loss may even interfere with our ability to accurately process and make sense of what is said or heard.
Research now shows that people with poor hearing have less gray matter in their auditory cortex. This is the region of the brain that is needed to support speech comprehension.
Other research shows a link between hearing loss and dementia. One Johns Hopkins study found that seniors with hearing loss are much more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. Another found that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults. And a third revealed a link between hearing loss and accelerated brain tissue loss.
Experts also believe that interventions, like professionally fitted hearing aids, can potentially help with dementia and cognitive load.
The bottom line is we actually “hear” with our brain, not with our ears.
If you think you may have hearing loss, do something about it sooner rather than later. Make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional and have a hearing test. If the test reveals a treatable hearing loss you should treat it. Your brain will appreciate it.
Research suggests that treating hearing loss may be one of the best things you can actually do to help protect your memory and cognitive function.
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Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D., owner and audiologist at Advanced Hearing Solutions in Englewood, FL is a licensed professional whose 26 year career has been devoted to helping people of all ages hear and understand more clearly. Dr. Crosby received her BS and MS degrees from FSU and her Doctorate in Audiology from UF. Her credibility as an authority grew during her tenure as the Director of Audiology at the Silverstein Institute in Sarasota, FL from 1991-1998. Today, in addition to managing a successful audiology practice, Dr. Crosby is involved in creating hearing loss awareness through her jewelry and accessory company AuDBling.com. She has served and is serving on various professional boards and committees and was president of the Florida Academy of Audiology in 2000 and 2010. She has been married to Michael for 23 years and has one daughter.