The link between hearing loss, confusion and cognitive decline

One of the most common health concerns in the world is hearing loss. 430 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss. By 2025, this number is expected to rise to 700 million. Of those that have hearing loss, majority are older adults. 25% of those over the age of 60 have hearing loss [1]. According to updated research, cognitive decline symptoms are more likely to occur in older adults with hearing loss. According to a Johns Hopkins study, seniors with hearing loss have a 30%-40% higher chance of likelihood of cognitive decline [2].

Our hearing is a partnership between our brain and ears

Your brain processes incoming speech, allowing you to understand and make sense of what you’re hearing. During normal circumstances our brains are very good at multitasking, doing numerous jobs at the same time. However, when the hearing loss is left untreated, incoming signals are unclear and the brain works much harder to process these signals. In turn, this increases “cognitive load” and listening fatigue.

The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural, or also known as nerve-type hearing loss. With this type of hearing loss, the auditory nerve, or inner ear, sends incoming signals to the brain, but is impaired and the signals are garbled. It is for this reason that people with hearing loss say that they can actually hear when you’re talking but they have difficulty understanding what you’re saying.

When our brain requires more resources to decode the incoming signals, fewer resources are available for other brain duties. In fact, if you have untreated hearing loss, your brain is so busy trying to make out and translate incoming noises that other tasks like memory and comprehension end up suffering.

Hearing aids can help

There is good news here! Hearing aids can help. These devices happen to be the most common and most effective treatment for sensorineural (nerve) hearing loss. Along with improving communication, hearing aids may assist in decreasing mental fatigue, ease feelings of isolation and depression, and improve memory, attention and focus by making your hearing less effortful and easier overall.

It’s just not worth waiting

The significant benefit of treating hearing loss early is realized and documented by hearing professionals. This is often referred to as a “use it or lose it” phenomenon. The longer you wait to have your hearing loss treated, the more difficult it is for your auditory nerve to send clear incoming signals to your brain, causing the understanding of what you hear more difficult. To be very blunt, the sooner you treat your hearing loss with hearing aids, the more likely your treatment outcome will be positive.

To treat your hearing loss, you can visit a local hearing clinic and consult with a hearing professional. Not sure where to go? We can help! Call (888) 919-6824 or click here.

Source:
  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_accelerates_brain_function_decline_in_older_adults

By Starkey Canada

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