As you age, it’s important to keep your brain active by doing the daily crossword puzzle in The American Press or taking a class at SOWELA Technical Community College. This helps your brain stay sharp in order to help prevent cognitive decline. For people with hearing loss, it’s especially important to keep the brain stimulated, as this population has been shown to have an increased risk of developing dementia. Fortunately, wearing hearing aids can help stimulate brain activity.
Hearing Happens in the Brain
When you think of how you hear, you probably think about the ears. But the brain has just as important of a role, as it’s what helps you make meaning of sound.
As soundwaves pass from the outer ear through the middle ear and to the inner ear, tiny hair cells called stereocilia are stimulated. The cells convert the soundwaves into electric energy that travels via the auditory nerve to the auditory cortex within the brain. There, it is interpreted as sound so you know what you’re hearing.
For those with hearing loss, the brain receives less of this input, and as a result, the neural pathways become inactive. This causes your brain to have to work extra hard to fill in the gaps to understand what the sounds are, leading to a taxing cognitive load.
Hearing Loss Is Linked to Cognitive Decline
Research from Johns Hopkins shows that older adults with hearing loss are at a much greater risk of developing dementia compared to their peers who have normal hearing. The results of the study showed that:
- People with mild hearing loss have 2x the risk of developing dementia.
- People with moderate hearing loss have 3x the risk.
- People with severe hearing loss have 5x the risk.
Hearing Aids Are Good for the Brain
Fortunately, hearing aids have been shown to improve brain function. In a 2019 study, 25,000 participants underwent cognitive testing over two years. During this time, one group wore hearing aids while the other did not. Results showed that those who wore hearing aids had better working memory, attention and reaction times than the control group.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Hearing Center of Lake Charles today.