Lake Charles residents with hearing loss have a higher risk of developing a number of physical, social and psychological health complications, especially when their condition goes untreated. One of the most serious conditions is cerebral atrophy, also known as brain shrinkage.
Hearing Health & The Shrinking Brain
When neural connections in the brain deteriorate, cerebral atrophy occurs. This is commonly associated with many diseases of the brain, such as dementia. Physicians can examine rates of cerebral atrophy in order to determine future cognitive impairment in patients they are seeing in Lake Charles.
About 20 percent of the adults in Louisiana experience hearing loss to some degree. It becomes more common with age; about one-third of individuals develops hearing loss by 65, and half of all people aged 75 will have a hearing impairment. Hearing loss occurs when the hair cells in the inner ear suffer damage, often as a result of noise, disease or trauma. As these cells begin to die off, the quality and number of neural connections begins to decrease, affecting the parts of the brain that are responsible for hearing, memory and cognition. Research indicates that untreated hearing loss increases the risk of dementia by 50 percent; this hastens the onset of cerebral atrophy in Lake Charles patients.
Dr. Frank Lin and colleagues at Johns-Hopkins Medical Center have devoted a lot of research into the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Their findings show that the risk of cognitive impairment is as much as 500 percent higher in patients with impaired hearing. Part of their studies focused on whether hearing loss is associated with advanced brain shrinkage; using brain imaging techniques such as MRIs has shown a positive link between accelerated cerebral atrophy and reduced neural volume, affecting key cognitive functions such as hearing, memory and speech-language abilities.
Can Cerebral Atrophy Be Prevented?
There is no cure for cerebral atrophy, but your Lake Charles audiologist says steps can be taken to reduce its likelihood. Early detection and treatment of hearing loss will reduce your odds of dementia or lessen its severity. A baseline hearing test is recommended for individuals in their twenties; regular hearing screenings over time will show changes in hearing ability. If you are under the age of 50, you should have a hearing exam every 5-10 years; over that age, hearing tests are recommended every three years. Patients with high risk factors, such as a family history of hearing loss or a condition associated with a decline in hearing ability like diabetes, should have annual hearing evaluations.