Hearing Loss And Brain Health
For some it's from birth, for some it happens rapidly as a result of accident or illness, but, for most of us, hearing loss is a slow, but, inevitable process.
My granddaughter was born partly deaf, but, my hearing loss is a result of age... and the fact that I spent several years in the army with things going boom and crash around me... and noise pouring directly into my ears from a set of earphones pressed tightly to my ears as I tried to decipher sounds buried behind static.
So, what's the problem, beside having to turn the TV up, and the occasional missed remark... not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes?
Maybe hearing loss makes us miss more than just the occasional remark?
It's obvious that hearing loss, age-related or otherwise, can result in a certain amount of isolation. We quit listening to people and they, tired of shouting, or having to constantly repeat themselves, just quit talking to us. The TV show that could have been entertaining, informative, or enlightening, may just become a bunch of pictures with little or no meaning.
However, studies by such prestigious institutions as Johns Hopkins, has shown that, directly AND indirectly, hearing loss may contribute to, and/or accelerate dementia and related conditions.
Indirectly through the isolation mentioned above. Social isolation has long been understood to contribute to dementia, and other emotional problems.
However, modern techniques, such as brain scans, have demonstrated that hearing loss MAY also be a potential cause of an increased rate of brain atrophy.
Also, life is full of subtle signals that we use to make sense of life, and which contribute to the thought processes which allow us to life a full, active life, and which help keep the brain functional and operating smoothly... at least relatively smoothly.
The processing and interpretation of sounds by the brain is, in itself, a form of mental exercise. These sounds, often so subtle in themselves, can even help with movement and balance, enabling us to move safely through our urban or rural enviroment.
One apparently obvious solution to hearing loss is the use of hearing aids. Unfortunately, not enough data has been gathered to show that the use of hearing aids offsets, slows, or reverses the contribution of hearing loss to dementia and other mental and emotional problems.
However, it seems logical to me that hearing better with the use of hearing aids can conceivably return some of those audio cues, and ease of socialization necessary for brain health.
Also, there is simply no downside to hearing better. It's good for your quality of life, and possibly for brain health as well.