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Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

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Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

Dr. Teague earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Hearing, Speech and Language from Ohio University and his Doctoral Degree in Audiology from The University of Louisville. He is an active member of the American Academy of Audiology and the Ohio Board of Audiology.
Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

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Hearing works by sounds traveling down your ear canal and then hitting tiny hairs that then relate this information to your auditory nerve, which is then processed through electrical signals in the brain. Due to the fact that hearing loss actually happens inside of the brain in many cases, hearing loss can actually affect more than just your ability to hear. IN other words, it can affect your intellectual and cognitive abilities. Hearing loss has a huge effect on your mind, in other words, because your ability to receive and process sound is an important part of how you cogitate in the first place. Here’s some information about how hearing loss and cognitive decline are related.

Understanding Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This type of hearing loss, called SNHL, or Sensorineural Hearing Loss occurs due to damage in the inner ear. The condition affects the nerve pathways that connect from your inner ear into your brain. It can make it so that you can’t hear softer sounds, and it can also affect louder sounds too, making them sound muffled. It’s important to understand this because it’s the most common kind of permanent hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by various drugs and illness, genetic causes, physical damage such as being hit in the head, a problem with how your inner ear formed, noises that were too loud and too close to you, or simply by getting old.

Studies on Cognitive Decline and Untreated Hearing Loss

The studies here indicate that cognitive decline is likely related in some way to untreated hearing loss. It doesn’t mean that one causes the other, but it does mean that they are related. The more that you can’t hear and process the sounds around you, the more you’re going to be isolated. According to recent studies, such as the one at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, a link was found that showed that hearing loss is connected to a larger risk of cognitive decline. It was 30 percent higher among subjects who had hearing problems.

In cases where the hearing loss was significant, the percentage of decline was as high as 54 percent or even higher.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

As of the current date, there aren’t a lot of options for curing hearing loss in most situations, especially sensorineural hearing loss. However, you can find treatment to make the situation much better, even to the point where it may not affect you very much at all. The main way to do this is by going to get a test from a doctor and then finding a hearing aid that fits you properly. It takes some time to accumulate to a hearing aid, so the quicker you do this, the better off you’ll be in just about every way, including with resisting the potential onset of dementia.

Cognitive Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

The benefits of treating hearing loss are substantial. For one thing, you will probably experience positive effects on your place of work. If your hearing is improved, you will be able to communicate with others much more effectively. This will likely lead to more happiness at work, more job promotions, and more prospects in general. Those who can’t communicate effectively can’t really properly participate at their place of employment.

Additionally, you will end up with social benefits, since you may not even realize how much you were missing when you were suffering from hearing loss. If you can’t hear what someone is saying, you’re often going to shy away from socializing with them.

Scheduling an Appointment Today

The key is to schedule an appointment with a qualified hearing professional today in order to make sure that you get started on treating this problem as soon as possible. You’re definitely going to want to get that risk of cognitive decay down as soon as you can, and treating hearing loss is a great way to do that. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can get everything corrected and back on track again.