Ahhh, aging: Graying hair… emerging wrinkles… Shrinking brain?!
Believe it or not, it’s true. Our brain shrinks as we age—a process also known as “brain atrophy” or “brain tissue loss”—and it’s simply a part of life. What’s important to be aware of, however, is that hearing loss has been found to accelerate that brain atrophy in older adults.
So, how did this discovery come about and what does it mean for us? Let’s discuss.
Study analyzed hearing loss’ correlation with brain atrophy
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institute on Aging conducted a study that compared the brain changes of two groups of adults over 10 years. Seventy-five of the participants had normal hearing and 51 had untreated hearing loss. The team was led by renowned hearing loss expert Dr. Frank Lin.
The findings: After examining MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of all the participants, the researchers found that those with untreated hearing loss from the start of the study had accelerated rates of brain shrinkage compared to those with normal hearing.
The areas of the brain that displayed “significantly more” atrophy included the superior, middle, and inferior temporal gyre structures, which process sound and speech. According to Lin, this likely occurred because of the lack of stimulation of these areas as a result of the hearing loss.
But what’s equally important to note is that the middle and inferior temporal gyre structures of the brain are also involved in memory and sensory integration, which, states Lin, have been shown to be associated with mild cognitive impairment and dementia (specifically the most common form, Alzheimer’s disease).
Don’t wait to treat hearing loss, expert recommends
So, what do we take away from the study’s findings? Here’s what Dr. Lin had to say:
“Our results suggest that hearing loss could be another ‘hit’ on the brain in many ways…If you want to address hearing loss well, you want to do it sooner rather than later. If hearing loss is potentially contributing to these differences we're seeing on MRI, you want to treat it before these brain structural changes take place."
Hearing care professionals can help
Your next best step? Take the expert advice and see a licensed hearing care professional to have your hearing tested and treat any hearing loss you may have.
(And the overall health benefits of hearing aids don’t stop there—just recently, it was announced that wearing hearing aids may even increase your lifespan. The list goes on...)
Don’t have a hearing care professional? No problem. Simply type your zip code in here and you’ll generate a list of local hearing providers that can assist you.
Better hearing and better aging go hand in hand. With the help of hearing aids, you can safeguard your brain health into the future.