For most people, losing their memory is one of the side effects of getting older. Often, this high rate of memory loss among people of advanced age is even turned into a joke. How many times have you heard someone explain away a lapse in memory as having “a senior moment"? But what if memory loss wasn't a fundamental part of aging, but rather a side effect of another impairment, such as hearing loss? In recent years, scientists have amassed a growing amount of research that suggests that hearing loss directly contributes to a loss of memory.
Impaired Brain Activity
A number of recent studies have shown that hearing loss can lead to impaired activity within the brain. Looking at brain scans, scientists have seen that older adults suffering from hearing loss typically have less mass in the areas of the brain associated with processing sounds. This decease in mass is a sign that these areas aren't being used as much, resulting in cellular shrinkage. Additionally, scientists claim that hearing loss also forces the brain to work harder to process sounds, which draws resources away from other parts of the brain and can result in cognitive impairment.
What the Studies Say
Recently, a number of studies have confirmed the analysis of these brain scans. One study done by researchers at Johns Hopkins showed that cognitive impairment happened earlier in seniors suffering from hearing loss, relative to seniors whose hearing was within the normal range. In fact, the researchers found that hearing loss sped up the mental decline and loss of memory by as much as three years.
The Importance of Hearing
Hearing loss in seniors has a wide range of implications beyond just accelerating their mental decline. Most seniors suffering from hearing loss find it difficult to interact with the world around them, including their friends and family, and they're far more likely to be socially isolated. This social isolation can result in even less mental stimulation, which only further damages cognitive ability.
The association between hearing loss and mental decline only further illustrates the need for hearing loss prevention. According to researchers, seniors who get hearing assistive devices, such as hearing aids, can preserve both their hearing and their mental acuity for longer. So if you or a loved one currently suffer from hearing loss, talk to a doctor and see what options are available. Improving the quality of your hearing can dramatically improve the quality of your life.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!